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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Japan moves to back US
Junichiro Koizumi greets members of Japan's Air Self Defence Force
Japanese forces will be barred from actual combat
The Japanese cabinet has approved changes to the law to allow its defence forces to give logistical support to the US in case of military action.

Under the plan, Japan could send forces to provide medical supplies and services, but would not take part in any fighting.

We must make it clear that dispatching the Self-Defence Forces does not constitute the use of force

Junichiro Koizumi
Japan's post-war pacifist constitution bans the use of force in settling international disputes.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hopes to bring the bill into law by the end of the month.

"They are important bills because they concern how Japan will respond to new developments and how Japan cooperates with the international community in rooting out terrorism," Mr Koizumi told reporters.

"Japan should provide as much cooperation as possible within the limits of the constitution."

Aid boost

The cabinet on Friday also approved plans to send six military cargo planes to Pakistan on Saturday to airlift relief supplies for refugees fleeing Afghanistan in anticipation of air strikes.

And it also passed a proposal to provide up to $120m to help the refugees - meeting 20% of an aid appeal by the United Nations.

Afghans arriving in Pakistan
Afghans are fleeing to Pakistan, fearing violence
It pledged to give $6m in the next two months.

Japan's ruling coalition has enough members to pass the bill without opposition support, but it wants to get the backing of the main opposition Democratic Party.

The Democrats still object to some key points. In particular they are reluctant to send ground forces to Pakistan, for fear it could become a combat zone.

Asian fears

The planned legislation would be in force for two years, with the possibility of extending it by two years.

Japanese forces would not go into any "combat areas" or countries that refused entrance, said an official. Also, Japan could transport weapons and ammunition but could not supply them.

However, Japanese forces would be armed and, in line with the current law, could shoot first if they needed to defend themselves.

Another proposed change is to allow Japan's Self-Defence Forces to protect US military facilities in Japan.

Mr Koizumi is anxious to reassure his Asian neighbours that the changes will not mean a return to Japan's warlike past.

"We must make it clear that dispatching the Self-Defence Forces does not constitute the use of force," he said. "We must make efforts to make sure other countries are not alarmed."

In recent months South Korea and China have accused Japan of increased militarism since Mr Koizumi came to power. He plans to visit both countries later this month to repair relations.

The BBC's Juliet Hindell in Tokyo
"Japan has been locked in debate on how to help the US since 11 September"
See also:

28 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Japan's Self Defence Force
01 Oct 01 | Talking Point
Should Japan's constitution change?
27 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi sets pace on military debate
25 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi pledges Japanese support
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