[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February, 2004, 05:04 GMT
Japanese troops deployed to Iraq
Japanese advance troop commander Masahisa Sato (right) smiles to Iraqi children
Advance troops are already installed in southern Iraq
The first Japanese ground troops to be deployed on peacekeeping duties to Iraq have arrived in Kuwait.

The group of about 80 troops left Japan on Tuesday bound for Kuwait, where they will acclimatise before continuing to southern Iraq.

They will join a small number of reconnaissance troops already in Iraq.

The move is controversial because critics argue it could violate Japan's pacifist constitution if the troops are drawn into combat.

The departure of the main ground contingent follows the approval of the lower house of parliament last Saturday.

PACIFISM UNDER THREAT?
Japan's constitution renounces the use of force
This has been stretched to allow self-defence troops
1992 law allowed troops to join UN and relief work overseas
2003 law said troops could go to non-combat zones in Iraq
PM Koizumi wants to give Japan even greater powers

It commits Japanese troops to a zone where combat is continuing for the first time since World War II. The troops are due to help provide clean water and infrastructure to the southern Iraqi town of Samawah.

As they left their base on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the troops were given a banner-waving send-off by families and military members.

The unit's commander, Colonel Yasushi Kiyota, told reporters the troops would "carry out our mission for the Iraqi people and make efforts to bring stability to the world".

Opinion polls suggest that about half of the Japanese public is currently opposed to the deployment.

Japan's constitution prohibits the use of force in international disputes, but the Japanese Government argues the country is entitled to exercise self-defence and the troops will be able to return fire if they are attacked.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has argued that the mission is necessary to bolster Japan's role in the international community.

A total of about 1,000 Japanese troops - 600 main ground units and 400 air force and naval logistical support units - are expected in Iraq by March.




SEE ALSO:
Japanese air unit reaches Kuwait
23 Jan 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Asian alarm at Japan mission
20 Jan 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Diplomats' deaths shock pacifist Japan
06 Dec 03  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Japan's binding ties to the US
19 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific