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LEAD: Japan may delay pullout of GSDF troops from Iraq: Aso+
[April 02, 2006]

LEAD: Japan may delay pullout of GSDF troops from Iraq: Aso+


(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, April 2_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: RECASTING WITH ASO'S COMMENTS ON JAPAN TROOPS' WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ)

Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Sunday that the withdrawal of Japan's ground troops from Iraq may be postponed until the fall or later due to a delay in the establishment of a new Iraqi government.

Asked if the troops will be pulled out of Iraq by September when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi steps down, Aso said on a TV Asahi program, "The decision will be made (under the Koizumi administration) but the withdrawal may be delayed" due to the slow process of establishing a new government in Iraq.



Japan had initially sought to announce a decision in March to withdraw the Ground Self-Defense Force troops from the southern Iraqi city of Samawah, and to complete the pullout by the end of May, sources said.

Japan has deployed up to 600 GSDF troops to Samawah since early 2004 for noncombat assistance, and an air wing to Kuwait to help in airlifting supplies for the U.S.-led multinational forces.


British and Australian forces stationed in southern Iraq have been providing protection to the Japanese troops, and Aso indicated that Japan's decision will be made in coordination with the two countries.

On China, Aso said he sees China's military capabilities as posing a threat, despite having sparked an outcry from Beijing when he made similar remarks late last year.

Aso said on a Fuji TV program, "What is problematic with (the Chinese military spending) is its opaqueness. Because it's not very clear what (the spending) is being used for, neighboring countries feel threatened."

He also criticized China's protest over the issue, saying, "It's wrong to say it's wrong to use the word 'threat.'"

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