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Leader
28 Dec 03,, 03:04
Japan advance team heads to Iraq


http://i.cnn.net/cnn/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/12/26/japan.troops.iraq/story.japanc130afp.jpg
Japan's Air Self Defense Force will send four C-130 Hercules transport planes to Iraq.

(CNN) -- The first Japanese non-combat troops have left for the Iraq region, beginning Japan's biggest overseas military deployment since World War II.

The 23 personnel from the Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) flew out of Tokyo's Narita airport Friday and will work as an advance team in cities in Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, Kyodo news agency reported.

They are part of a 40-member group that will prepare for the arrival next month of the main ASDF detachment, numbering about 150 personnel.

In all, Japan will send about 1000 non-combat troops to Iraq. The bulk of them are expected to go in February and March.

The ASDF team, based in Kuwait, will operate four C-130 transport planes and will ferry food and medical supplies to locations such as Baghdad, Basra, Balad and Mosul, Kyodo reported.

Earlier this month, Japan's neighbor South Korea approved plans to send a new 3000-strong troop contingent to Iraq.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said Friday the 3000 would include 1460 combat troops, Yonhap news agency reported. They will be deployed in northern Iraq in April.

Ministry officials earlier said marines, special warfare commandos and ordinary infantry troops would be included in the South Korean combat element.

The rest of the troops will be made up of army engineers, medics and other non-combatants, ministry officials said.

Japan and South Korea are key East Asian allies of the United States in the war on terror, and have their own security issues close to home because of the threat posed by North Korea.

Both countries suffered civilian casualties in Iraq last month, with the deaths of two Japanese diplomats and two Korean contractors.

Washington has been pressing its allies to broaden support for the coalition forces in Iraq by committing more combat and non-combat troops to the region.

The United States had asked South Korea for 5000 troops, but President Roh Mooy-hyun limited the number to 3000 when he first announced in October that troops would go to Iraq.

South Korea already has about 500 engineering and medical troops in Iraq. Most of them are based at Nasiriya.

The forces have been in the country without incident since May, but in November two South Korean civilian contractors were killed in central Iraq.

The fresh deployment is expected to take about four months. No region has been nominated yet, but Yonhap quoted a defense official as favoring the northern city of Kirkuk.

In the case of Japan, the bulk of its troops will not reach Iraq until late March.

Armored vehicles and other heavy equipment will be shipped from Japan aboard a naval vessel on January 14, the Mainichi newspaper reported earlier this month.

Japan's pacifist constitution strictly limits military activities. Parliament passed a special law in July to authorize sending non-combat troops to Iraq. The legislation also lets troops carry weapons -- but only to defend themselves under fire, The Associated Press reports.

Opposition parties have strongly opposed the dispatch, saying it violates the constitution. They also say safe areas don't exist in Iraq.

Two Japanese diplomats were shot and killed near Tikrit late last month while en route to an Iraqi reconstruction conference.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/12/26/japan.troops.iraq/index.html

smilingassassin
28 Dec 03,, 06:02
Glad to see Japan back in action...this time on our side!

Gio
28 Dec 03,, 08:27
Agreed, but I have to wonder how the Chinese are feeling. Japan is still very disliked in the region, just yestrerday i spoke to a Korean fellow who told me he hated the Japanese. Younger then me. Then again, the Dutch have never really forgiven the Germans.