- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged yesterday that Japan would provide logistical support in the U.S. war on terrorism, a sharp departure from its past reluctance to get involved in international conflicts.

"We will provide our maximum support for our ally, the United States," Mr. Koizumi said. "We want to take action with our own initiative in order to root out any terrorism."

Mr. Koizumi is reportedly planning to visit President Bush in Washington on Friday.

A deployment of Japanese forces would be the first time since World War II for Japan to send its military overseas to support combat operations.

Japan angered many nations by declining a U.S. request to send minesweepers to the Persian Gulf in 1991 a move Tokyo claimed was mandated by its pacifist postwar constitution.

Japan instead paid $13 billion to the U.S.-led coalition for its services in liberating Kuwait.

Following intense pressure from Washington to help the war on terrorism, Mr. Koizumi announced guidelines for assisting the United States this time.

"We will take necessary measures as soon as possible to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces (SDF)," Mr. Koizumi said yesterday, using the official name of Japan's military.

The measures being considered would include providing medical treatment for wounded soldiers and backup support, such as sending the SDF vessels to the Indian Ocean for missions such as supplying food and equipment, Mr. Koizumi said.

He added that the mission would likely involve at least one of Japan's four destroyers that are equipped with an Aegis battlefield-management system, he said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported that the ship would be used to provide intelligence.

Japan will not be directly involved in combat activities, Mr. Koizumi said.

Japan's reluctance to get involved stems from its constitution, which bans war as a means to settle international disputes.

The constitution also prohibits Japan from having military forces a prohibition the nation dodges by calling its military "Self-Defense Forces."

Twenty-four Japanese are presumed dead and 40 to 50 Japanese are still missing in last week's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Japanese government needs legislative approval to dispatch Self-Defense Forces and is expected to submit required legislation to the Diet (parliament) Sept. 27.

Japan also decided to provide emergency financial support for Pakistan and India, which are lining up with the United States to prepare for potential military strikes on terrorist bases inside Afghanistan.

The Bank of Japan has also reduced the official discount rate the rate the central bank charges financial institutions for loans by 0.15 percent to 0.1 percent.

Since the last week's terrorist attacks, U.S. military bases in Japan have tightened security.

Japan's police are also looking for 19 Islamic militants who reportedly entered the nation in September. Some are believed to have come from Kandahar, Afghanistan, the city that is known to have sheltered suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

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