The government made it official Thursday: the Self-Defense Forces troops in Iraq will stay for another year, as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi renewed his commitment to reconstruction efforts and to Japan's alliance with the United States.
But the government has this time specified four new conditions that could lead to the SDF's withdrawal over the coming year: progress in local reconstruction development; advancement in the political process in Iraq; the deterioration of the local security situation; and changes in the activities and configuration of the U.S.-led multinational forces.
"(Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi) has not fulfilled his responsibility" in the Diet in explaining how Samawah could be deemed a "noncombat zone" for another year, as stipulated by the special law authorizing the deployment of Self-Defense Forces troops, Democratic Party of Japan leader Katsuya Okada said.
Both the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party criticized Koizumi over the nation's role in a war they said cannot be justified.
"The government must pull the troops out as soon as possible and try to find a way to live in harmony with Iraqis," said SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima, voicing concern that the troops' continued presence will increase the chances of Japanese becoming targets of terrorists.
The justification for the SDF deployment has been a tightrope act from the beginning. By law, the government can't dispatch SDF troops to a foreign combat zone, so it has declared Samawah to not be a combat zone, and in fact has made a point of saying how safe it is now. The government also says there is a need for humanitarian aid to help the Iraqis, so they must send the SDF to help the Iraqis and support the US.
So, many Japanese ask, if it isn't a combat zone and there's a need for humanitarian work, why send SDF troops? Why not use civilian aid agencies? The government response is that it's too dangerous for that.
Some days it's a bit convoluted over here.