Fears of Isolation Prodded Contribution From Japan, Kaifu Says With PM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s status as a major world player was at stake when it pledged an additional $9 billion for the allied forces in the Persian Gulf, the government said today.
Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu made the offer Wednesday despite protests from Japanese opposed to the war or to paying higher taxes to cover its costs. The government had earlier pledged $2 billion to the allied war effort.
″Japan has a natural duty to make a positive contribution to this effort,″ Kaifu said in remarks to Parliament today. ″Refusal to fulfill this obligation ... would mean choosing the road to international isolation. This is surely something we would want to avoid.″
Foreign Minister Taro Nakayama said Japan’s position as an economic power and major oil consumer required the sacrifice.
″The United States and other countries less dependent on the Persian Gulf for oil have sacrificed the lives of their citizens and undertaken a massive military operation in the midst of economic hardship,″ Nakayama said. ″We owe them our utmost cooperation.″
Tokyo, which imports 70 percent of its oil from the Middle East, was under strong pressure from Washington to provide more aid for the war effort. The latest contribution was decided during negotiations with the United States.
Kaifu’s governing Liberal Democratic Party now faces an uphill battle in getting legislation for the aid through Parliament.
The aid proposal is likely to sail through Parliament’s lower house, where the Liberal Democrats have a majority, but its fate in the opposition- controlled upper house, which must approve financing, was unclear.
Last year, the opposition scuttled Kaifu’s proposal to send non-combat troops to the gulf, citing Japan’s constitutional ban on using force to settle international disputes.
Kaifu has not said whether the additional money could be used to pay for weaponry. Government sources said they expected Kaifu to win support for the aid from the anti-war Clean Government Party, which holds a deciding vote in the upper house, by pledging the money would not be used for armaments.
Nine officials from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces left for Cairo, Egypt today to make arrangements for evacuating war refugees, said Shigeru Hatakeyama, director general of the Defense Agency’s policy bureau.
Japan said Thursday it would send five military aircraft to carry refugees from Jordan to Egypt. Opposition parties had tried to block the move, saying it also violated the constitution.
Hatakeyama said it would take about 10 days to finish maintenance work and choose and train personnel for the flights. About 200 members of Japan’s Self- Defense Forces are expected to participate in the evacuation flights.
Besides the $11 billion pledged to the allied forces, Japan has contributed $2 billion in economic aid to the Arab front-line states that have suffered under the U.N. trade embargo imposed on Iraq.
In a related development, Iraq’s ambassador to Japan, Rashid M.S. al-Rifai, was called into the Foreign Ministry today to discuss remarks that Japanese military aircraft in the gulf area would be treated as military targets, said ministry spokesman Taizo Watanabe.
Ministry officials emphasized during the meeting that the jets were being dispatched only on humanitarian missions, he said.