- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

TOKYO, March 20 (UPI) — Although the Japanese government has announced its support for the U.S. decision to go to war with Iraq, the nation appears to have only just begun to try to understand why.

No politician appears willing to explain clearly to the nation why the war is needed and, more controversially, why Japan should support the American war efforts.

In a parliamentary debate on Wednesday, opposition leaders unanimously criticized Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's handling of the Iraqi crisis. The Communists and the Socialists are fundamentally opposed to Japan's military alliance with the United States.

But leaders of the Democratic Party of Japan and Liberal Party are not. Both are in part made up of deserters from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and, therefore, might support security cooperation with the United States. That did not stop them from charging that Koizumi hadn't adequately and convincingly set out the reasons for his decision.

According to the Asahi Shimbun daily, assemblies in 26 prefectures have passed resolutions opposing war with Iraq. More than 500 local assemblies across the country have done the same in the past couple of months, while insisting on Iraq's full cooperation with the U.N. arms inspection program.

Some 60 people demonstrated on Wednesday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, denouncing American threat of war.

At a press conference Wednesday, the Iraqi charge d'affaires, Qasim A. Shakir, reiterated Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's warning that the war will become global.

Though discounting an immediate danger of terrorism in Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasudo Fukuda said Wednesday that anti-terrorism measures being taken immediately include tighter border control, security checks at vital installations, and counter-measures against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Nuclear energy plants across Japan tightened security Wednesday and security checks were stepped up at the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka, home port for the carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

At entertainment facilities, such as Disneyland in Chiba (near Tokyo) and Universal Studio Japan in Osaka, security alertness was visibly heightened.

The looming war has cost millions of dollars to the promoters of the opening games of major league baseball between the Seattle Mariners and the Athletics. They were to be played in Tokyo next Tuesday and Wednesday. To the disappointment of players, as well as 110,000 fans who had already purchased tickets, the promoters announced the games were cancelled for security reasons.

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