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Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the Redeployment of Self-defense Force in Iraq

June 20, 2006

[Opening remarks by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]

The Government of Japan decided today that it will redeploy the Ground Self-defense Force (GSDF) troops in Samawah, Iraq. This decision is based on the judgment that the humanitarian and reconstruction assistance activities in Iraq being conducted by the GSDF in Samawah have fulfilled a certain role. The Government of Japan has also taken into consideration the establishment of the new Iraqi Government by the Iraqi people themselves and the ongoing process of transferring security responsibility in Al-Muthanna Province, where the GSDF troops have been operating, to the new Iraqi Government, and close consultations with the United States (US) as well as the Multi-National Forces (MNF) and other nations including the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia.

Japan will continue to provide assistance and cooperation for the Iraqi reconstruction effort wherever possible even after the redeployment of the GSDF from Samawah, in cooperation with the US, the MNF, the Iraqi Government, and the United Nations (UN).

The GSDF's activities in Samawah have been highly appreciated by the Iraqi Government and the people of Iraq. I believe the GSDF troops have played a large role in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of local infrastructure through their efforts in such areas as water provision, medical services, and repair work on schools and roads. These efforts have been highly appreciated and have gained the confidence of both the Iraqi Government and the local people, and I think it is excellent that the GSDF will be able to redeploy on a note of gratitude. All of this owes to the efforts of each and every member of the Self-defense Forces (SDF), who have worked actively and tirelessly under a severe environment with the strong awareness that their activities in Iraq are a means of executing the goodwill of the people of Japan. I would like to express my most sincere respect and gratitude to the SDF troops for their efforts in Iraq.

Taking this opportunity, I would also like to sincerely thank the Iraqi Government and the people of Iraq, and also the US and the MNF, including the troops of the UK, Australia and the Netherlands as well as their governments and their peoples, who all have paid various consideration toward ensuring that the activities undertaken by the SDF could be performed smoothly.

Iraq is making efforts to establish a government by the Iraqis for the Iraqis, and to establish a stable, democratic administration. In cooperation with other countries and with the UN, Japan intends to provide as much assistance as possible to aid Iraq in its essential task of nation-building considering what can the Government of Japan do to assist the Iraqi people's nation-building effort.

The Government of Japan intends to continue extending assistance to Iraq so that when a stable government is established in Iraq, the people of Iraq will feel that the Government of Japan and the people of Japan lent a hand to their nation-building efforts when they were in the most difficult of situations. I ask for the understanding and support of the people of Japan in this endeavor.

[Q & A]

QUESTION1: The dispatch of the Japanese GSDF to Iraq is coming to an end. Two and a half years ago when the Government of Japan decided to dispatch the GSDF, it required a lot of political energy. Looking back, what do you think of the necessity of the so-called permanent law (to allow the SDF to be sent overseas) in the event of another Iraq-type situation? Please tell us your view on this issue including your reasons as well.

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: Regarding the permanent law, there have been discussions to consider ways that allow us to instantaneously respond to diverse situations without passing a special measures law or new legislation.

However, with regard to Japan's assistance activities in Iraq, we drew up a special measures law for a limited period, and the SDF are carrying out activities within the confines of the law. We can never be sure whether a situation like that of Iraq will occur in other countries. In the case that the UN requests such assistance, the kind of assistance activities that the Japanese Government would provide would, I think, be left for future discussion. My view is that now is not the time to decide which course is the right course, or to focus our discussions on establishing a permanent law during the next Diet session. Rather, the issue of establishing a permanent law is something that we must further discuss extensively.

I also think that a variety of issues will come up concerning the permanent law. So as of the present time I am not thinking of enacting a permanent law during the period of my cabinet.

QUESTION2: Has it been your wish to withdraw the GSDF troops dispatched by your administration before the end of your term of office?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I have said that the establishment of an Iraqi government by the Iraqis themselves should be realized at the earliest possible date. I have wished that the time would come quickly when the Japanese SDF troops could redeploy and the Iraqis would be able to manage on their own, the time when Iraq no longer needs the assistance of foreign troops.

Looking at Iraq as a whole, however, such a situation has not yet been realized. It is not that I specifically wanted to or had to redeploy the GSDF troops from Iraq during my term of office. Japan, as a responsible member of the international community, must provide assistance that is commensurate with its national capabilities when Iraqis themselves are rebuilding their nation on their own; it is with this recognition that Japan has kept up its assistance activities in Iraq. It is not the case that I have striven with the end of my term of office in the back of my mind. I have remained in charge of this administration with the consideration that I must make my best effort to carry out my duty as Prime Minister right up until the end of my term in September.

Incidentally, at the present time it has been proven possible on the basis of a comprehensive judgment to redeploy the GSDF troops that was dispatched to Iraq during my term of office. It is a matter of great satisfaction that events have reached such a stage, but Iraq will still need much of our assistance from now on. Whether or not we can say at this moment that a stable, democratic administration could be established in Iraq by the Iraqis, there may still be some points that remain uncertain.

Nevertheless, from my viewpoint it is good in that the situation has reached the stage where we are able to redeploy the Japanese GSDF troops from Samawah. However, there are many areas in which Japan can cooperate with Iraq in the interests of allowing the Iraqi Government to stand up and promoting a stable administration. Concerning this point too, the Japanese Government intends to provide assistance in a responsible manner while paying due consideration to the intention of the Iraqi Government and solidly constructing a system of solid cooperation with the UN and other countries.

QUESTION3: I would like to ask about Japan's reconstruction assistance to Iraq. Do you think such assistance should be undertaken by the private sector centered on private companies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)? If so, what do you think should be the shape of government involvement?

Do you have any ideas about visiting Baghdad to hold discussions with the Iraqi Government?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: It is my wish that a situation can be quickly realized in which the private sector including companies and NGO are able to engage in reconstruction activities in Iraq. I would like to consider that once such a situation is realized, nation-building in Iraq would be making full-scale progress.

However, it is precisely because such a situation has not been realized that the SDF troops have been carrying out their activities in Iraq. The international community shares the common understanding of the need to establish a situation in which private companies and civilians can visit Iraq at an early date in order to provide assistance. Accordingly, as a member of the international community, Japan also must continue providing assistance in order to realize such a situation at the earliest possible date. I will indeed make further efforts toward realizing a situation in which civilians, private companies and NGO staff will be able to visit Iraq.

As to whether I will visit Iraq or not, I have considered the practicability of a visit as part of Japan's independent operation, security standpoint and the possibility that the visit might cause other countries to make considerations that would otherwise be unnecessary. So at this point in time I am not contemplating such a visit.

QUESTION4: With regard to the Iraq War, which became the trigger to the current reconstruction assistance effort in Iraq, there is still strong international criticism over the outbreak of the war-the grounds for the United States' preemptive attack. How do you evaluate the Iraq War at this moment in time? Also, what kind of role do you think the dispatch of the GSDF has played in advancing the "Japan-US alliance in the global context", which you have often mentioned?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I believe that the various measures taken with respect to Iraq based on UN resolutions were just. Now, the international community has overcome the differences of opinion voiced at the outbreak of the conflict, and it is in agreement on the principle that each country should provide assistance to Iraq in a way that is commensurate with the respective countries. Even if different countries responded differently at the time of the outbreak of the conflict, they have since then conducted assistance and cooperation activities.

Japan recognizes the importance of the Japan-US alliance and carries out international cooperation. This remains an unchanging cornerstone of Japan's policy. It has been so in the past and it will continue to be so in the future. From such a viewpoint, Japan fulfills its responsibilities in the international community while recognizing the importance of the Japan-US alliance, not only in Iraq but in other wide-ranging areas. One instance has been the assistance to Iraq. I am convinced that the SDF personnel have carried out their activities splendidly and in such a way that Japan's assistance will be highly appreciated in the future by the Iraqi Government and the people of Iraq.