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Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
(Decision on the extension of the Basic Plan regarding humanitarian and reconstruction assistance of the Self Defense Forces in Iraq)
December 8, 2005
|[Opening Remarks by Prime Minister Koizumi]
Today, the Government of Japan decided to extend by one year the dispatch period of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) undertaking humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Iraq. The humanitarian and reconstruction assistance activities carried out by the SDF have been highly appreciated by the Government of Iraq and its people. This Monday, I had a meeting with Mr. Ibrahim Al Ja'fari Al Eshaiker, the Prime Minister of the Government of Iraq, on the occasion of his visit to Japan. Prime Minister Al Ja'fari stated that he highly valued the activities conducted by the SDF in Iraq. He directly requested the continuation of the activities of the SDF for humanitalian and reconstruction assistance.
The election for the National Assembly is due to be held on the 15th of this month. The Iraqi people have been making untiring efforts to build a stable, democratic government with their own hands. I have judged that Japan should support these efforts.
Furthermore, in response to a request made by the Government of Iraq, the United Nations (UN) Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution which extended the mandate of the multinational force (MNF) in Iraq.
In light of such developments and in consideration of the role that Japan can play on its own, the Government of Japan has decided to extend the period of activities undertaken by the SDF at this time.
I hereby would like to ask for your cooperation and understanding in this respect.
[Q & A]
QUESTION 1: Please elaborate on the reason why you have decided to extend the dispatch period of the SDF despite the fact that the situation in Iraq remains uncertain. Furthermore, the activity status of the British and Australian forces was mentioned this time in the Basic Plan regarding humanitarian and reconstruction assistance of the Self Defense Forces in Iraq as a condition for the withdrawal of the SDF. Please tell us your thoughts on the timing of the withdrawal of the SDF.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I will start with the main reason why I decided to extend the period of activities undertaken by the SDF. Firstly, as I have just stated, the Iraqi people themselves are earnestly striving to rebuild their own country. A referendum took place for approval of the draft constitution and other efforts have also been taken in an attempt to create a stable and democratic administration. The election to elect the members of the Iraqi National Assembly is due to be held on the 15th of this month. In the past elections, the Iraqi people have demonstrated to the international community their will to rebuild Iraq with their own hands through such efforts as casting votes in spite of terrorist threats against participating in elections or other threats aimed at hindering and confusing the elections. I have repeatedly shared my view with the Prime Minister, President and dignitaries of Iraq taking every opportunity I have had in meeting them, saying "Stable, democratic administration in Iraq will only be realized by the Iraqi people themselves. Not the UN, the US, the multinational force, nor Japan, but by the Iraqi people themselves. If you do not demonstrate the enthusiasm to rebuild your country by yourselves, stable and democratic administration is unlikely to be realized no matter which country provides assistance." Amidst such a situation, the Iraqi people are now formulating a transitional government with their own hands. They are working to establish a democratic administration in Iraq without yielding to the repeated obstructions against the election posed by the terrorists, with a turn-out rate even higher than that in Japan. The Iraqi people are very eager to rebuild their own country by themselves. At such a time, the Prime Minister of Iraq himself shared with me that he highly appreciates the SDF's assistance activities and strongly requested that the SDF continues its activities in Iraq. I would also like to add that a unanimous vote was made, and thus adopted, at the UN for the multinational force to extend its mandate in Iraq to continue its assistance activities in response to the request made by the Government of Iraq.
Given the situation, should Japan then now retract? I believe that Japan should fulfill the responsibility as a member of the international community in order to contribute to Japan's interest. Also I believe that assisting the efforts of the Iraqi people to rebuild their country with their own hands will work in favor of realizing a friendly relationship between Japan and Iraq in the future.
I believe another part of your question was on the possibility of the SDF withdrawing during its extended dispatch period. The British and Australian forces are conducting security activities in the Governorate of Al-Muthanna, which includes Samawah. I intend to draw appropriate decisions while consulting closely with both the British and Australian governments, and at the same time duly consider the security situation in Samawah and make certain that the system works without fail to protect the safety of the SDF personnel operating in Iraq.
Above all else, I intend to give consideration to Japan's assistance activities, keeping in mind what kind of assistance will allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their own country with their own hands as soon as possible without relying on the help of other countries.
QUESTION 2: My question also relates to the timing of the withdrawal from Iraq. In the United States (US), there are expectations that the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force performing duties should extend its area of activity to include other regions. Some have also expressed a belief that the Air Self-Defense Force should expand the scope of its transportation to include areas such as Baghdad and Qatar. Is the Government of Japan considering these possibilities?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I am unaware of such discussions. Japan will consider what role it can play based on the Law Concerning the Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq. Japan will make its own decision as to the regions in which the SDF performs its duties in the future and the kind of activities in which it will engage.
QUESTION 3: You said that Japan will support the efforts of the Iraqi people themselves. Is it your basic position that assistance provided by those other than the SDF is preferable if circumstances allow? I think there are certain areas in which Japan has expertise. The focus of SDF activities is shifting from water provision operations toward, for example, the reconstruction of public facilities. At this point in time, in what specific areas do you think Japan can lend assistance that does not rely on the SDF?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I believe that if the security situation in Iraq is further improved, Japanese companies and volunteers will be able to carry out a variety of activities beyond those currently conducted by the SDF. I conveyed this to the Prime Minister of Iraq on his last visit to Japan. I said to him that if the Iraqi people endeavor to improve the security situation with their own hands and their efforts actually improves, Japan will be able to provide more assistance than that currently extended by the SDF, including official development assistance (ODA). I conveyed to the Prime Minister of Iraq that the situation in Iraq is too difficult for Japanese civilians to conduct activities as only SDF personnel are trained to protect their own safety, and that when the situation is improved to the level where Japanese civilians who are not SDF personnel are able to conduct activities, Japan will extend an even greater amount of assistance and it is prepared to extend such assistance. I strongly hope that that situation will be realized at the soonest date possible, at which point the Iraqi people themselves can improve their safety and security situation with their own hands.
QUESTION 4: It has been pointed out that the security situation in Iraq is far from stable. In these conditions, the SDF personnel are making great efforts. This is something that one does not want to even think about, but have you envisaged a response to a case in which SDF personnel are victimized by misfortune.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I think that your question was about what would be done if there was to be a failure in maintaining the safety of SDF personnel. I have until now given due consideration in terms of ensuring their safety so that that type of event does not happen. I intend to continue to give thorough consideration to the safety and protection of SDF personnel in their activities. I believe that this is the responsibility of the Government of Japan as well as my own responsibility.
QUESTION 5: In the US, it has been concluded that there was no evidence with regard to what President George W. Bush stated to be the basis for the start of the Iraq War: the existence of weapons of mass destruction and a relationship to the series of terrorist attacks in the United States. I would like to once again hear your perception of the significance of the Iraq War, which is what is behind your extending the reconstruction activities of the SDF on this occasion.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: Currently, 28 countries are cooperating in establishing a democratic government in Iraq. The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted the Resolution to extend the mandate of the multinational force in Iraq. Looking at this situation, our backing out at this point would be just what the terrorists want, and I believe that it is like taking sides with the terrorists, who will not allow a stable democratic government to be established in Iraq. That should not be tolerated. Iraq should not be a breeding ground for terrorists. From such a perspective, I have decided that extending the assistance activities of the SDF in Iraq is necessary, and I am confident that efforts toward democratization are justified.
QUESTION 6: The United Kingdom (UK) and Australia were mentioned in the Basic Plan. These two countries have set as their activity objectives the maintenance of security and education of local police and the army. There is speculation that Japan will withdraw its SDF if these two forces do likewise. Does it not seem rather farfetched to compare the activities of the SDF to two forces that do not share the same activity objectives as Japan? Listening to you speak today, I have to say that the objective of Japan is becoming obscure.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: Japan's objective is very clear. It is to provide humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Iraq. The British and Australian forces are engaging in security activities in Iraq. I believe cooperation with such Multinational Force is necessary for the SDF to carry out its humanitarian and reconstruction assistance activities smoothly. Of course, the activities of the British and Australian armies differ from those of Japan. This being said, I am seeking a role Japan can play in such a situation, and I am not considering Japan to assume the same role the UK and Australia are playing in the region.
QUESTION 7: This is a question that has been asked a number of times, but do you plan on visiting Iraq during your term in office? You are scheduled to visit the Middle East in early January next year, but do you plan on visiting Iraq on this occasion?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I have been asked this question frequently in connection with my visit to Israel and Palestine next January, but there is no such plan. I cannot give you an answer to your question on the possibility of my visiting Iraq at some point down the road, but at least I can tell you that there is no plan for me to visit Iraq during my visit to Palestine and Israel next January.
QUESTION 8: Please share with us your basic understanding of the security situation in Iraq. Also, please tell us whether you expected a situation that does not allow for civilians to conduct their activities in Iraq to persist for two years.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I believe that Samawah is relatively stable compared to other regions in Iraq. I hold deep respect for the SDF personnel who are all toiling under such a situation and carrying out activities highly assessed by the Government of Iraq and its people. I am hoping that the situation will ease to allow private companies and civilians to conduct their activities in Iraq as soon as possible. I wish to create that kind of situation most immediately, and I am expecting that the Government of Iraq too will further exert its energy in this regard.