U.S.-Japan alliance called more critical than during Cold War

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Japan's Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba has strongly backed plans to support the U.S. in Iraq despite the recent hostage crisis.

The recent abduction of Japanese humanitarian workers fueled opposition demands that Tokyo reverse its decision to deploy Self Defense Forces (SDF) for humanitarian duties in Iraq.

"It is my belief that a trustworthy bilateral alliance has become a lot more important in the current security environment than in the Cold War period," he said in a commencement address last weekend.

Ishiba also hinted at support for a change in Japan's constituion to allow the deployment overseas of combat foraces.

"We need to come up with an answer on whether Japan can truly maintain the alliance relationship with the U.S. even if Japan lacks in its defense capability," Ishiba said

Ishiba was speaking in Tokyo at commence ceremonies for the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), which offers programs for more than 50,000 students from U.S military communities including military personnel, their family members, and eligible civilians.

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been moving steadily away from continued support of Japan's "Peace Constituion" which was implemented following World War II.

"Some people wonder whether we can we stay as an alliance partner by just supporting the U.S. military forces from behind and not being able to support on an equal footing basis," Ishiba said.

"Some members of the opposition parties in Japan say that even if we do not send the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, it will not undermine the Japan-U.S. Security Alliance," he said.

I cannot agree with this opinion," he said.

"At the time when the United States is fighting against terrorists, the enemy of freedom and democracy, and trying to establish a democratic country in order to respond the expectations of many Iraqis, there's no alternative for Japan other than to support the United States of America," he said.

Japan did not bow to the demands of terrorists who kidnapped several Japanese citizens recently.

In the spirit of supporting the American war effort, "the Government of Japan rejected to yield to terrorists' demands."

"Today, we confront untraditional asymmetrical threat in terms of actors and means. . . .Poverty is not the cause of terrorism. I believe the real cause of terrorism is the system which is incapable of realizing the wish of each citizen."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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