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The Mainichi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, recently reported Japan is considering a law supporting the United States should war break out against Iraq.

The newspaper reported that when Japan’s Diet, or parliament, reconvenes Jan. 20, lawmakers will consider authorizing the Japanese Self-Defense Force to provide non-combatant support to U.S. forces.

Mainichi quoted an unnamed government official as saying, “There is a need to demonstrate the Japan-U.S. alliance is strong.”

But at least one Diet member denied there is any push for such a law. Katsuei Hirasawa of the LDP lower house called the Mainichi story “humbug.” He said although he would strongly support such a measure, passing it would be tough.

The law, Mainichi reported, is expected to focus on allowing fuel transfers and cargo shipments, similar to support Japan provided for the U.S.-led war on terror in Afghanistan.

A Japanese Aegis ship also deployed to the Indian Ocean recently under special provisions passed last year.

Passing laws to allow such support was necessary because Japan’s constitution forbids any except defensive military action.

“The law will not pass the Diet,” Hirasawa told Stars and Stripes. “If they try to submit the bill, it will cause serious divisions within the (LDP) party. The groups who oppose have doubts about the justification of an American war against Iraq.”

Such divisions were illustrated by Toshiyuki Shitaka, a retired Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force lieutenant general and international law and politics professor at Teikyo University in Tokyo.

Shitaka predicted such a law could pass if aimed at providing noncombatant support and post-war aid for Iraq.

Hirasawa, however, said Iraq has a lower priority for Japanese lawmakers than looming budget battles and improving the Japanese economy before the April 1 start of Japan’s fiscal year.

He added that North Korea’s resumption of a nuclear program also is of greater concern because of Japan’s close proximity to the Communist state.


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