(AFP) – Jun 1, 2008
TOKYO (AFP) — Japan is considering whether to send its first troops to Afghanistan on a reconstruction mission, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Sunday.
Tokyo has been a major donor to Afghanistan, pledging 1.3 billion dollars since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
However, its pacifist constitution limits its military activities, and it does not have troops among the international forces helping Afghanistan fight the resurgent Islamic extremist movement.
"If conditions on the (Afgan) ground allow, Japan can offer its cooperation in activities on the ground. I'm always thinking of that possibility," Fukuda told reporters when asked about sending troops.
"My attitude is that we should do what we can do," he added.
His comments came one day after Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said the government was studying widening Japan's contribution on Afghanistan, in addition to a military refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean.
Japan renounced the use of force under a US-imposed constitution after it was defeated in World War II.
Already a major financial power on the global stage, it has now begun also to seek a greater presence in international security affairs to help carve out an expanded world role, including a permanent UN Security Council seat.
Japan sent ground soldiers to Iraq in 2004 on a non-combat reconstruction mission -- the first time since World War II that Tokyo deployed troops to a nation where fighting was ongoing.
They flew home in 2006 -- without firing their weapons and having suffered no casualties -- after they helped reconstruct a relatively peaceful southern province, building water supply facilities and providing medical assistance.
In January, Fukuda's government ordered two naval ships back to the Indian Ocean after forcing through the resumption of the mission to provide fuel and other support to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.
The naval mission had been suspended in November after Japan's opposition won the upper house of parliament and insisted the officially pacifist nation should not take part in "American wars."
Japanese media have reported that Tokyo plans to send military personnel to Sudan to take part in UN peacekeeping operations.
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