- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mission unfinished

The U.S. ambassador to Japan yesterday pressed the government to renew its naval resupply mission to aid the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, despite strong objections from the main opposition party that now controls Japan’s upper house in parliament.

“The work that’s going on in the Indian Ocean is an international effort to defeat terrorism,” Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer told reporters in Tokyo, after meetings with Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano.

“I hope that the people of Japan will realize that this measure is important, not only to the United States, but to the whole international community.”

Japan has been refueling coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since 2001, but the law that authorized the mission is due to expire Nov. 1.

Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the opposition Democratic Party in the upper house, is threatening to scuttle the naval deployment through legislative moves that will block a renewal of the mandate. Mr. Ozawa claims involvement in the war in Iraq violates Japan’s pacifist constitution and lacks U.N. approval.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who supports extending the mission, was damaged politically when his party lost control of the upper house in July elections. Yesterday, Mr. Abe announced he was quitting after only a year in office.

Mr. Schieffer told Mr. Machimura that Japan is providing a “vital and unique contribution to the war on terror.”

In talks with Mr. Yosano, the ambassador said, “I expressed to him my hope that this issue would be above partisan politics and that it would not become part of the political infighting that’s going on between the parties.”

Mexico’s duty

On his first visit to California, the Mexican ambassador this week conceded that his country has failed to provide jobs for its poor and prevent them from illegally entering the United States.

“Comprehensive immigration reform in the United States has to start in Mexico,” Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Unless Mexico can trigger economic growth and well-paid, sustainable jobs, even with comprehensive reform, we won’t be able to hold on to skilled and motivated people. Mexico’s highest edge in the world today is its human capital, and we’re losing it.”

California has the highest number of illegal aliens in the United States, according to several studies. The estimates, however, range widely from a low of 3 million illegal aliens to a high of 10 million, with 50 percent to 70 percent Mexicans. The estimates of the number of illegals in the United States range from 12 million to 20 million.

Money sent home by Mexicans in the United States legally and illegally is Mexico’s second highest source of income, after oil, said former President Vicente Fox. He told a Washington audience earlier this year that those remittances account for about $20 billion.

Mr. Sarukhan, ambassador to the United States since February, met Tuesday with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Beaten in Burma

The State Department criticized the military dictatorship in Burma for mistreating pro-democracy demonstrators imprisoned after mass street protests in June.

“Multiple reports indicate that many of these protesters have been brutally beaten and interrogated,” spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday, referring to the arrests of up to 150 demonstrators.

“We call upon the Burmese regime to allow access to prisoners by international humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, and renew our call for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Burma.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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