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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Koizumi promises support for US
Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi
Koizumi wants to avoid repeating Gulf War mistakes
By BBC Tokyo correspondent Charles Scanlon

The Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has promised support for international action against terrorism, including a strictly limited role for the country's defence forces.

He told a news conference the military would be sent to help in intelligence gathering once a UN resolution had been passed supporting United States' action.

He also said humanitarian assistance would be extended to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Okinawa military base
Japanese forces are not allowed to defend US bases in Japan
The Japanese Government appears determined to avoid the humiliation it suffered during the Gulf War, when it contributed money but no troops and received little thanks from the participants.

This time it is talking of a more direct role in any international operation.

Mr Koizumi told a hastily assembled news conference that the armed forces would be allowed to undertake intelligence and humanitarian work once a UN resolution was in place.

That is a significant move in a country with a pacifist constitution and severe restrictions on overseas activities by its defence forces.

New laws

Mr Koizumi said the government would also consider new laws to enable significant logistical support for the American military.

He said the terror attacks on New York and Washington could not be tolerated and Japan would do whatever it could to support the United States.

About 47,000 American troops are stationed in Japan and they are currently preparing themselves for possible combat. But under current laws, Japan's defence forces are not even allowed to defend the US bases on its own soil.

Washington has made clear it wants help from Japan and the government is responding.

But it has still given few details and tough parliamentary battles could lie ahead. Opposition could grow if the government goes too far against the spirit of its peace constitution.

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Delhi
reports on the Indian victims in New York
The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo, Japan
"There is overwhelming sympathy here for the United States"
See also:

18 Sep 01 | Business
Japan joins economic support drive
19 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asian casualties mount in New York
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