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2008年12月20日 (土)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 19(IHT/Asahi: December 20,2008)

EDITORIAL: SDF ends mission in Iraq


The Self-Defense Forces completed their five-year mission in Iraq, with the last Air SDF transport plane returning to Japan.


Five years ago, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who supported the Iraq war, virtually steamrolled the SDF dispatch at a time when public opinion was divided over the dispatch.


SDF troops devoted themselves to reconstruction work and transportation activities in the war-torn country. From time to time, transport planes sensed danger, prompting them to take emergency moves to escape to safety.



Once, a roadside bomb exploded near a Ground SDF vehicle. It was fortunate that the SDF did not lose a single member.


Despite the fact that such countries as Germany and France did not take part in the war, and Spain and Italy withdrew their troops with a change in administrations, the SDF continued the mission. The Japanese government must want to stress this point as a great accomplishment.


But we should reflect on the situation.


Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Japan has remained close to and followed the United States, including throughout the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.


The SDF dispatch to Iraq was a symbol of such single-minded Japanese diplomacy.


But the results of the Iraq war were disastrous. Weapons of mass destruction, the supposed reason for starting the war, did not exist. After Iraq's dictatorship was overthrown, violence swept the country. The war, which started out as "a war on terror," had the opposite effect, adding momentum to and spreading terrorism.


The task force on external relations, an advisory panel to the prime minister during the Koizumi administration, pointed out in a report released in 2002 before the attack on Iraq: "The U.S. spirit of tolerance for opposing views and values different from its own is getting weaker. As a result, the morality of U.S. diplomacy could weaken."


Unfortunately, that fear proved right.


The Japanese government and leaders of the ruling parties at the time refused to face this fact and have remained silent.


Post-World War II Japanese foreign policy is often described as "toeing the U.S. line." But rarely has it been so monochromatic.


When we look back at the 1990s, before the Koizumi administration, the governments of Ryutaro Hashimoto and Keizo Obuchi had developed active diplomacy with not only neighboring countries, such as China and South Korea, but also with other Asian countries, the Middle East and Russia.


While they positioned the Japan-U.S. alliance as the central pillar of Japan's foreign policy, they also had a flexible mindset to heighten Japan's national interests with diversified diplomatic relations.


Now, Japan's relations with neighboring countries that broke under the Koizumi administration are about to be restored. Japan, China and South Korea agreed to hold regular trilateral summit meetings. The U.S. administration of George W. Bush, characterized by unilateralism, will soon be replaced by that of Barack Obama, who advocates international cooperation.


This is a chance for Japanese diplomacy to recover diversity. Japan should play a positive role in dealing with global issues, such as economic crises and environmental conservation. There must also be unique ways for Japan to make itself useful in reconstructing and stabilizing Afghanistan and Iraq.


Japan should also reactivate its participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations--but not just based on the context of the Japan-U.S. alliance alone.


We want the SDF withdrawal to be the starting point for Japan to break away from single-track diplomacy intent on pleasing the United States.



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