- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 28, 2004

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s defense chief said today that Japanese troops should remain in Iraq until the country is properly rehabilitated, possibly until late 2005.

About 500 Japanese troops are helping to rebuild infrastructure in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah, and their mandate is set to expire Dec. 14. The government was planning to assess the situation in Samawah before deciding on a possible extension.

Asked about a possible pullout of Japanese troops, Defense Minister Takahiro Ono said that several factors had to be considered, including whether they had fulfilled their mission to help rebuild the war-torn country.

“Another factor to consider is that a mission by multinational troops expires next December — that could be one cutoff point,” Mr. Ono said during an appearance on a morning news program by public broadcaster NHK.

Mr. Ono was referring to a December 2005 deadline for the mandate of multinational forces in Iraq under a United Nations Security Council resolution.

Many in Japan strongly oppose the troop dispatch, and Japan’s opposition party has vowed to fight an extension.

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