- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2007

Rebuffed in Japan

The newly powerful leader of Japan’s main opposition party rebuffed U.S. Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer yesterday when the diplomat appealed to the politician to lift objections to Japan’s continued role in the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan.

Ichiro Ozawa, whose center-left Democratic Party captured the upper house in Japan’s parliament last month, repeated his intentions of opposing a renewal of Japan’s mandate to supply coalition ships when the law expires Nov. 1.

Mr. Ozawa has the power to block a reauthorization bill approved by the lower house, still controlled by the Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who supports Japan’s role in the coalition. The bill would be returned to the lower house, where Mr. Abe has the necessary two-thirds majority to override the upper house. That is a time-consuming process that could miss the November deadline.

In his meeting with the ambassador, Mr. Ozawa also complained that the United States is acting unilaterally in world affairs and reminded the ambassador that the constitution the United States imposed on Japan after World War II limits the military to self-defense actions.

“If I were given a decision-making position, I regret to say Japan would not participate in an operation led by the United States,” Mr. Ozawa told Mr. Schieffer in a 45-minute meeting opened to reporters in Tokyo.

“However, Japan would actively take part in peacekeeping operations authorized by the United Nations.”

Mr. Ozawa criticized the United States for invading Afghanistan in 2001 to dislodge the brutal Taliban regime that sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

President Bush said the Afghan war was an American war against terrorism, and the United States unilaterally fought the war without waiting for consensus from the international community,” he said.

Mr. Schieffer tried to explain that the NATO coalition was, indeed, authorized by the United Nations and that Japan’s pullout would jeopardize the vital naval operations that rely on Japanese supply ships.

“I hope that you will take note of the fact that the task force is there under United Nations authorization and that authorization was just renewed last spring,” Mr. Schieffer said.

“We hope, we believe, that Japan can not only contribute to the international security of the world but also to its own security.”

Mr. Schieffer said another negative result of Japan’s withdrawal would be the impact on Pakistan, which relies on Japanese supply of high-grade fuel for its ships involved in assisting the coalition.

“If Japan were to withdraw the support from this coalition task force and not provide the fuel, it would mean that the ability of Pakistan participating, in particular, would be at risk,” the ambassador said.

“We believe it is very important to keep Pakistan, the only Muslim country in this coalition, in the coalition. I think this sends a strong message to everyone in the Middle East that the war on terrorism is not a war on Muslims.”

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