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Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi feels that a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi weapons showdown would have been the best solution.

But “I understand and support the American use of force,” he said during a Thursday afternoon news conference.

The United States is the only ally that has stated that an attack on Japan will be regarded as an attack on itself, he said, “and Japan should not forget that this has been a deterrence.”

While pledging his support, Koizumi emphasized that “Japan will never use force or participate in combat action.” He said the country will aid in Iraq reconstruction efforts but added that it’s too early to discuss specifics.

Koizumi’s support of the U.S. war on Iraq has sparked sharply divergent reactions in Japan. On Thursday, for instance, Okinawans expressed mixed feelings about the U.S.-led campaign.

Toru Odo, an Okinawa Prefectural Assembly member, said he “fully” supported it. “Had Russia, France and Germany joined the United States in an effort to give pressure to Saddam Hussein regime, he might have long gone into exile by now,” Odo said. “The opposition by these countries gave a wrong signal to Saddam Hussein.

“The world must not forget … that Iraq invaded Kuwait, continued to produce weapons of mass destruction, ignored any demands to pay compensation to Kuwait or to return Kuwaiti prisoners of war.

“All of this is clear evidence that Saddam Hussein never showed respect to the international community. If no action was taken, it would have conveyed a wrong message to not only Iraq but also to North Korea, which is an imminent threat to Japan.

“North Korea would think that their brinkmanship would work.”

Etsumi Tairahori was one of about 40 protesters at the U.S. Consulate in Urasoe, Okinawa, following President Bush’s speech Thursday.

“I really don’t know what to do anymore,” she said. “I did all I could to oppose the attack, but our voice and sorrow did not reach President Bush.

“Killing another human is wrong, whether Iraqi or any other nationality. … War is evil no matter the reason.”

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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