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Japanese PM Tells Rumsfeld Iraq Mission 'Important Cause'

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, Nov. 14, 2003 – Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today that he agrees that the cause of rebuilding Iraq is important to the international community.

"He said he believes that Japan's support of successful reconstruction of Iraq is within the national interest of Japan," said a senior U.S. Defense official present at the 45-minute meeting. The Japanese government has made significant financial contributions toward rebuilding Iraq, including a $1.5 billion grant in 2004 and $3.5 billion in loans over the following three years.

Speaking through a translator, Koizumi explained that he had "seen President Bush's statements recently about the resolve of the coalition and the resolve of the United States, and that he was impressed by that," the U.S. official said.

"The secretary then emphasized that there should be no doubt that the United States was committed to success in Iraq," he said.

There was no mention during the meeting of the possibility of Japan sending military forces to Iraq or of the status of U.S. forces stationed in Japan. Japanese officials announced this week the country is unlikely to send members of its Self-Defense Forces to Iraq before year's end. Japan had been planning to send at least 150 troops by December, with an additional force of about 550 in January or February.

During his flight to Japan from Guam, where he visited U.S. Navy and Air Force troops and leaders, Rumsfeld said he believes countries ought to do what they feel is right for their own circumstances. "They ought to make judgments about the timing and size and the nature of their contributions," he told reporters traveling with him.

Rumsfeld will spend two days in Japan visiting national officials and U.S. troops and leaders. He will then go to South Korea for two days of similar visits before returning to the United States.

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