l A news item the other day reported that China had agreed to contribute one soldier to the international force which is trying to establish law and order in Afghanistan. So, by comparison, the 30 Japanese troops who left Tokyo for Iraq yesterday might be considered a sizeable unit. It would be wrong, however, to belittle what Japan is doing. The balance of a 1'000 strong force will arrive in Iraq in March to undertake mainly humanitarian duties in the south. This is not a fighting force, except in self-defence. In other words it would be unable to give military assistance to American or British forces under attack. The Japanese government cannot be blamed for this odd situation. The constitution imposed on Japan by the United States after World War II renounced the use of force in any circumstances and for ever, and this condition still has the strong support of the majority of Japanese people. Any government wanting to accept a higher profile for Japan in peace-keeping or similar activities therefore has to move with great care domestically. The first step was the creation of the Self Defence Force whose members have been able to join UN humanitarian missions overseas. However, Iraq has posed a special problem since the occupying power is not the UN. JUNICHIRO Koizumi has moved with caution and skill in getting the necessary conditional parliamentary support for this limited mission in Iraq and the possibility of amending the constitution is under consideration. Japan was criticised for contributing only money to the first Gulf War and its government accepts that as one of the world's leading industrialised countries it should play a more active role. The mission to Iraq is a first step.


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