• Kyodo

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Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma visited the U.S. Central Command on Sunday and assured the U.S. military that Japan will continue to support reconstruction efforts in Iraq by extending the Air Self-Defense Force deployment to Kuwait for airlift operations.

“I highly appraise the U.S. government’s enthusiasm and determination to recover security conditions centered on Baghdad, by going as far as increasing its deployment of troops,” Kyuma, the first Japanese defense minister to visit the Florida facility, said.

The remarks were apparently a bid to soothe tensions after angering Washington in January by calling President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq as “wrong.”

At an hourlong meeting, Kyuma also exchanged views on the situation in Iraq and U.S. antiterrorism strategies in Africa with Vice Adm. David Nichols, deputy commander of CENTCOM, Defense Ministry officials said.

Nichols was quoted as stressing the importance of nurturing Iraq’s ability to govern over the next six months.

He cited three factors — distribution of oil revenues, reconciliation among secular factions, and the provincial elections — as crucial to progress.

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