- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

TOKYO Japan yesterday abandoned limits on the use of its military observed since World War II, passing hotly debated legislation to allow its forces to support the war on terrorism.

The speedy approval of legislation just 25 days after it was introduced reflects Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's desire to avoid the criticism that befell Japan during the 1991 Gulf war. Tokyo was slammed for its "checkbook diplomacy" of offering mostly monetary support to the international coalition fighting Iraq.

Mr. Koizumi championed the legislation as a way for Japan to make a meaningful contribution to the campaign against Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, and yet stay within the confines of the nation's pacifist constitution.

"We now need to implement our response based on this law as soon as possible," Mr. Koizumi said in a statement after the law was passed. "The government views the fight against terrorism as a challenge of its own."

Japanese officials are scheduled to meet with U.S. diplomats and defense officials on Thursday to assess how Japan can help. Mr. Koizumi's Cabinet must then approve the plan. Officials also will go to Pakistan to assess the situation.

A Japanese press report suggested the Defense Ministry is considering sending four warships to the Indian Ocean as early as mid-November. While stressing that Japan is mustering support as fast as it can, Mr. Koizumi's spokesman Tsutomu Himeno declined to comment on equipment or timetables.

"There is probably a bigger role for Japanese forces in eventual peacekeeping operations," said Shigenori Okazaki, a political analyst with UBS Warburg.

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