December 9, 2003

Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi

Today, based on the Law Concerning Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq, the Cabinet has decided to dispatch the Self Defense Forces (SDF) to Iraq, in order to engage in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance activities in Iraq. Details will be determined in an implementation guideline to be compiled later and the SDF will be dispatched after sufficient preparations have been made.

First of all, this dispatch of SDF is for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Iraq. They will not engage in the use of force. They will not participate in combative activities. They are not going to war. The United States of America, the United Kingdom and other countries are cooperating to create a stable democratic administration in Iraq. I believe that, as a responsible member of the international community, Japan must also fulfill its responsibility in the creation of an environment that will allow the people of Iraq work to rebuild their own country with optimism. For that purpose, I have decided that there is a need for Japan to provide not only financial assistance, but also material assistance and personnel assistance, including the dispatch of SDF.

I am well aware that the current conditions in Iraq are severe one and the situation cannot always be described as being safe. Still, there are areas in which we must call upon the members of the SDF to be fully engaged. I believe that, whether it is government officials or members of the SDF, Japanese people must undertake activities that will be welcomed by the people of Iraq.

In reaching today's decision, I believe first and foremost that a government by the people of Iraq, for the people of Iraq and of the people of Iraq must be created. Furthermore, I believe that the majority of the people of Iraq are willing to undertake activities that will advance the stability and development of their country with optimism. I have decided that it is necessary for us to dispatch the SDF to assist them in that endeavor.

As I have long stated, in order to ensure the peace and security of Japan, and achieve greater prosperity, we must continue to enhance the Japan-US alliance, while cooperating with the international community. I believe that the basis of Japan's foreign policy must lie in the dual maintenance of both the Japan-US alliance and international coordination.

We have to decide how we engage in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Iraq this time. I believe now is the time indeed when we are to be tested, not only in our words, but in our deeds, as we act to maintain both the Japan-US alliance and international coordination. Japan cannot alone secure its own peace and security. It was for such a reason that we concluded the Japan-US Security Treaty and why we must accord the Japan-US alliance the importance it deserves.

The United States is a unique ally for Japan. Despite the great sacrifices it has made, the United States now continues to strive on in its efforts to create a stable, democratic administration in Iraq. No call has been made by the international community or any individual nation for the United States to "withdraw your forces." In such a situation, we must seek to maintain international coordination. The United States is Japan's ally, and I believe that Japan must also be a trustworthy ally for the United States. It is from that perspective as well that I recognize the extreme importance of maintaining the relations of trust within the Japan-US alliance.

At the same time, I do not believe that the United States alone can succeed in providing assistance for the reconstruction of Iraq. The cooperation of the international community is essential. In my meetings with President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as other heads of state, I have stated that it is extremely important to build an international coordination system. I have repeatedly stated the necessity of such system.

In September and October of this year, the United Nations called upon all member states to make efforts for reconstruction assistance in Iraq. I believe that Japan has a responsibility to respond to that request. In doing so will it be enough for us to merely provide financial assistance? That is not the case.

On 29 November 2003, Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku and First Secretary Masamori Inoue were tragically killed while engaged in reconstruction assistance activities in Iraq. This was truly regrettable and I am filled with indignation at the cruel and inhumane nature of the crime. Even in severe conditions and the presence of danger in the region, our diplomats have worked for reconstruction assistance from the perspective of what contribution Japan can make. Unfortunate and sad outcome followed. However, we must overcome our sadness and seriously consider what it is that Japan must do now.

Regarding humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Iraq, I am aware that many of the people of Japan are concerned and there are those who are opposed to the dispatch of the SDF. I have heard some express a view that the dispatch of the SDF is unconstitutional. However, I would like us all to take a good look at the Constitution of Japan. I will now read out a portion of the Preface.

"We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want. We believe that no nation is responsible to itself alone, but that laws of political morality are universal; and that obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who would sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign relationship with other nations. We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources."

Indeed, I believe that the international community is calling upon Japan, and the people of Japan to act in accordance with the ideals of our Constitution. I call upon the members of the SDF to undertake activities that conform to the spirit and ideals of the Constitution. This is fully justified and shows the fact that we are not thinking only of our nation. The stability and peaceful development of Iraq is essential for Iraq itself, as well as necessary for Japan. Indeed, it is necessary for the security of the world.

If the United States forces were to withdraw and Japan also were to withdraw by giving in to the threat of terrorists in Iraq, it is the world, and the people of Iraq, which would be most destabilized and Japan itself that would suffer. Based on such considerations, I do not believe that 'as they are the SDF, they must not go'. Thanks to their daily training, the SDF are prepared. They are also fully equipped. Tasks which could not be undertaken by ordinary members of the public can be accomplished by the SDF.

I am concerned about how the members of the SDF feel about the current situation. However, I was truly encouraged and filled with pride when the Minister of State for Defense informed me that in response to orders many SDF members are burning with a sense of mission and are firmly resolved to go to Iraq,.

It is my wish that many of the people of Japan send off the members of the SDF with feelings of respect and gratitude. They have withstood a daily regime of severe training that could not be handled by ordinary people and are now firmly resolved to go forth to carry out dangerous and difficult missions in places that may not necessarily be described as being safe.

Indeed, we now have to decide what approach Japan should take in assisting the reconstruction in Iraq. I believe that just as it is stated in the Preface to the Constitution of Japan, the very principles of Japan and our aspirations as a nation are being questioned. I believe that it is in fact the very spirit of the people of Japan that is being tested. I do not think that this is a situation in which we can decide not to make personnel contributions because it is too dangerous and that merely giving money will be enough. I believe that more than anyone else, it is the people of Japan that will most benefit as Japan provides as much assistance as it can, and as the activities of many of our diplomats, citizens active in non-government organizations and members of the SDF are appreciated by the people of Iraq.

The SDF have achieved many successes in their overseas activities. It was twelve years ago that the SDF first engaged in overseas operations. Starting with the mine clearing activities in the Persian Gulf, during the more than a decade that has passed, through the peacekeeping operations (PKO) in the Kingdom of Cambodia, the PKO in the Republic of Mozambique, the PKO in the Republic of Rwanda, the PKO in the Golan Heights, the counter-terrorism assistance in the Indian Ocean, and the PKO dispatch to East Timor, in all of these instances, the activities of the well disciplined members of our SDF were welcomed and praised by the local residents, creating strong relations of trust.

Indeed, it is because they are the SDF that they have been able to undertake activities that could not be performed by ordinary citizens. I believe that when the SDF goes to Iraq to undertake operations that are necessary and welcomed by the people of Iraq, they will most certainly earn the same high praise as they have earned for the operations that they have undertaken in the past.

In the event that the SDF are dispatched, the Government of Japan will give full consideration to securing their safety as it makes every effort to support their activities.

I sincerely ask for the understanding and the support of the people of Japan.

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