- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Japan’s decision

The U.S. ambassador to Japan is hoping Tokyo will keep troops in Iraq beyond a December deadline for withdrawal, but the Japanese government yesterday said Washington has not asked for an extension of the deployment.

“We are not aware that the U.S. government has made such a specific request,” Hiroyuki Hosoda, the chief Cabinet secretary, said at a press conference in Tokyo. “Japan is playing its part at its own discretion. It is true, of course, that the [Self-Defense Force] activities are highly regarded by the United States, Iraq and local residents.”

U.S. Ambassador Howard H. Baker Jr. said Monday a withdrawal of Japan’s 600 troops after the Dec. 14 deadline would be “a shame.”

Mr. Baker told Japanese reporters that the United States recognizes that a decision to extend its troop deployment is “very much up to Japan to decide.”

“But there’s no secret to the fact that the United States very much hopes that Japanese SDF will remain and continue their humanitarian efforts.”

Japanese troops are deployed in a noncombat zone to provide relief and reconstruction services.

“I think that Japan has made a major international statement by having the SDF there. I think they have performed humanitarian functions that are much admired. I think it would be a shame if that was not continued,” Mr. Baker said.

The ambassador also dismissed speculation about imminent Cabinet changes in the United States, saying he expects Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to remain “around for a while.”

“On policy, I don’t anticipate any significant shift in foreign policy, … but President Bush intends to go forward with meaningful and significant changes on American domestic policy,” Mr. Baker said.

Georgian troops

The ambassador from Georgia says his country is planning a large increase in the number of troops deployed to Iraq.

Ambassador Levan Mikeladze told United Press International that Georgia will send nearly 700 more soldiers, raising its number to 850, to defend U.N. missions in preparation for the scheduled Jan. 31 elections.

“Having trained together for the past several years, Georgian forces are completely interoperable with U.S. troops,” he said. “Our expanded deployment will help protect the international presence and will support the American and coalition forces.”

The ambassador said Georgia’s expanded commitment is “just another example of our partnership with the United States and the international community.”

Georgia, which has been fighting separatist forces in two regions of its country, knows what Iraq is struggling against in the daily terrorist attacks and in the current assault on the terrorist stronghold of Fallujah, the ambassador added.

“Georgians have felt the pain of terrorism, so we truly understand the importance of this global effort. Our young democracy is proud to help the Iraqis taste true freedom,” he said.

Freedom bus

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall yesterday, the German Embassy decorated a Washington Metro bus.

“This campaign will make a bold statement in city traffic, as it features the complete wrapping of the bus in a light-blue background with images of both countries’ flags and individuals communicating and embracing in friendship,” the embassy said.

German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, in a special message to commemorate the anniversary, praised the role the United States played in helping to reunite East and West Germany.

“Without America’s belief in German democracy, German unification might not have taken place in my lifetime,” he said.

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

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