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Koizumi pushes Japan anti-terrorism bill

Japanese Prime Minister
The prime minister wants quick approval of the anti-terrorism bills.  

TOKYO, Japan -- For the first time since World War II, Japanese troops may soon be able to assist in overseas military operations.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is calling for the swift passage of two anti-terrorism bills, so that Japan can offer non-combat, logistical support for the U.S.led coalition.

Koizumi, keen to actively contribute to U.S.-led efforts against terrorism, says that the country planned to face the "war on terror" with a "firm resolve."

"Terrorism is a huge challenge to all peaceful and democratic nations, and we plan to cooperate with the United States and other nations in facing this," he said.

The bills will clarify the potential role of military forces outside of Japan without breaching its pacifist constitution -- one that does not allow the use of force in an international dispute.

The House of Representatives has begun deliberations on two anti-terrorism bills drawn up by the government in response to the U.S. attacks.

One bill will enable Japan's Self Defense Forces (SDF) to give rearguard transport, intelligence and medical support to the U.S. led coalition attacks and assist in the humanitarian effort in the region.

The other bill will revise the SDF Law allowing military personnel to protect facilities and those of the U.S. in Japan from possible terrorist attacks.

Little time for debate

The ruling coalition led by Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party, has enough numbers to push though the bills, albeit with revisions.

They are aiming to have the bill passed before the October 20-21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Shanghai.

Leaders of the Democratic Party, the biggest opposition party have given the legislation support in principle but say there is little time for debate in Japan's Diet, the country's parliament.

Koizumi has already made it clear he wants the new legislation to have wider political and public support.

Any moves by Japan to enhance the role of its military is normally met with suspicion and hostility by countries that suffered under Japanese military occupation during World War II, especially China and South Korea.

Koizumi's one-day visit there earlier this week was meant to allay fears that Japan is using the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism to revive its own military ambitions.

Recent aid shipments have been sent by military, instead of commercial aircraft emphasizing the fact that the government is keen to push forward the role of the military.

All relief items are marked with seals of the Japanese flag -- a sign the Japanese Kyodo news agency says drives home the message that Japan is carrying its weight as a partner in the Afghan refugee relief operation.


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