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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Press doubts over Iraq deployment
Japanese soldiers in Kuwait en route for Iraq
Japanese troops are to stay in Iraq

Japanese papers agree that the government's approval of a plan to allow troops to join a new multinational force in Iraq is in principle the right thing to do.

But they take strong exception to the way Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced the decision.

Asahi Shimbun describes the prime minister's logic in justifying a Japanese role as "rough and careless" and says that, out of deference to the United States, he wants the Self Defence Forces (SDF) to stay in Iraq "at any cost".

"Cooperation in reconstructing Iraq is necessary even if it is a result of the wrong war," the paper says.

"But to do so, it is indispensable for the government to go through appropriate procedures."

The government tried to justify its position by arbitrarily stretching the meaning of the word 'participation'
Asahi Shimbun

It says the exact nature of Japan's assistance for Iraq must be properly examined both by parliament and the people.

If the SDF takes part in the multinational force without debate, "the principles of Japan's contribution will be further distorted", the paper adds.

Cheap magic

A second article in Asahi Shimbun is even more critical.

"No applause for Koizumi's cheap magic show," it says. "The government has shamelessly resorted to every cheap verbal trick to cheat the constitution."

The word "participation" is a case in point, the paper says, adding that "strictly speaking" SDF participation in the multinational force violates the constitution.

"So, the government tried to justify its position by arbitrarily stretching the meaning of the word. Realizing this trick was not working, the government simply dropped the word from its official statement."

"Command" is another word the government had to skirt round, the paper says.

It notes that if the SDF comes under the unified command of the multinational force, Japanese troops may be ordered to engage in armed action - a clear constitutional violation.

The prime minister's judgment is not wrong
Sankei Shimbun

So, the paper says, the government employed another of its "cheap tricks".

"In translating into Japanese the UN Security Council resolution concerning 'unified command', the government took the liberty of translating this expression liberally to suit its own purpose."

Another paper, however, adopts a more charitable approach towards the prime minister.

"What Mr Koizumi is aiming for is right," says Sankei Shimbun.

"The prime minister's judgment is not wrong," the paper goes on, arguing that if Japan withdrew the SDF from Iraq, it would be "held in contempt" and might be still be a target of terrorism.

But, it says, the decision needs further explanation, and Mr Koizumi should make greater efforts to win over the public.

'Empty explanation'

Tokyo Shimbun bluntly accuses the prime minister of ignoring public opinion.

What the people really want to hear, it says, is not an "empty explanation", but assurances that steps are being taken to "help the Iraqi people without violating the constitution".

Koizumi's explanation on multinational force participation was decidedly bland
Mainichi Shimbun

Although the government is planning what amounts to "a shift in Japan's security policy", the prime minister manifestly failed to dispel public concern that Japan may be dragged into a "quagmire".

"He should not make light of the people," the paper says.

Mainichi Shimbun believes in turn that Mr Koizumi's replies at his news conference lacked "enthusiasm and persuasiveness".

He failed to explain how "Japan's independent command" can be guaranteed. And he devoted just two minutes in his opening remarks to the issue.

"Compared to the length of time devoted to explaining social security, his explanation on multinational force participation was decidedly bland," it says.

The paper also finds it difficult to reconcile the prime minister's remarks about helping with the transport of US troops with his claims that the SDF mission will be "limited to humanitarian and reconstruction aid".

"We cannot help being concerned about how seriously the prime minister considered the whole issue before making the decision," the paper concludes.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Japan cabinet approves Iraq plan
18 Jun 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Japan's PM defends Iraq mission
17 Jun 04  |  Asia-Pacific

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