Japan's prime minister Sunday has vowed to make the country's defense
forces better able to fight terrorism and any attackers who would
use weapons of mass destruction.
During a troop review ceremony Sunday,
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Japan would fully review
the existing structure and weapons of the Self Defense Forces
to make them more efficient.
Mr. Koizumi says Japanese forces must be
capable of dealing with new threats, such as terrorism and the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Concern has mounted here in recent years
about North Korean missile and nuclear capabilities. There are
also escalating worries about terrorism amid reported threats
against Japan by Islamic militants opposed to the U.S.-led war
The prime minister, speaking Sunday at
the Asaka base of the Ground Self-Defense Forces outside Tokyo,
gave the strongest hint yet Japan will extend its deployment
of non-combat troops in Iraq beyond the scheduled end of tour
A recent newspaper poll shows more than
60 percent of those surveyed were against extending the one-year
troop mission in Iraq.
Last week, Mr. Koizumi said he would not
withdraw troops as demanded by militants who took a 24-year-old
Japanese backpacker hostage. The group, believed allied with
al Qaida terrorist network, later beheaded the captive.
For the first time on Sunday, an opposition
party leader attended the annual military review - a possible
indication the political bloc may be softening its staunch opposition
to deploying Japanese forces overseas. The president of the Democratic
Party, Katsuya Okada said he thinks it is important for the opposition
to also show its appreciation for the Self-Defense Forces' work
in disaster relief and protecting the nation during its 50 years
The opposition has criticized Mr. Koizumi
for strongly supporting President Bush in the war in Iraq. When
Mr. Koizumi sent units of the Ground Self-Defense Forces to southern
Iraq in January to help in reconstruction efforts, he became
the first leader here since World War II to send troops to a
nation still experiencing armed conflict.