Tokyo said that conditions are too unstable in Iraq to send troops before the end of the year, hours after an attack on an Italian military base in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah claimed the lives of 18 Italian soldiers and nine Iraqis.
"If the situation allowed our Self-Defense Forces to participate, they could go at any time... Unfortunately, it is not such a situation," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said in press statements carried by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"They may discuss in detail how (Japanese troops) will be received. We need information from various angles," Fakuda said.
Only hours before the attack in Nasiriyah, Tokyo had issued its strongest public message to date that it planned to send troops later this year.
"We are firm in our thinking that we will have a dispatch this year," Fukuda said yesterday.
The top government spokesman insisted today "our way of thinking hasn't changed."
But "we must react to the changing situation," said Fukuda, as a highly classified U.S. Central Intelligence Agency report warned that resistance to U.S. and other foreign forces in Iraq could strengthen in coming months.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a staunch supporter of the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation, received parliamentary approval last July to send up to 1,000 troops to Iraq.
But the BBC NewsOnline correspondent said that since then, as the security situation has deteriorated, an already uneasy Japanese public has turned against the policy.
The proposed area of deployment for the Japanese troops was Nasiriyah, the scene of Wednesday's bombing on the Italian forces.
Japan's constitution bans its forces from engaging in offensive operations.
Koizumi's support for the Iraq invasion cost him votes at the ballot boxes, with the opposition Democratic Party gaining 40 seats after campaigning against the deployment in last week's general elections.
The postponement also came much to the embarrassment of U.S. Defense Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, expected here a few hours later in the day for a discussion on ways to "adjust our alliance" and about the two countries' cooperation in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Compounding Washington's disappointment, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun offered to dispatch no more than 3,000 troops to Iraq.
The United States has reportedly asked South Korea for more than 5,000 combat troops.
Roh instructed his security ministers on Tuesday to prepare for a deployment that "should not exceed 3,000" in size, presidential spokesman Yoon Tae-Young said on Thursday.
Roh agreed on Oct. 18 to a U.S. request to send troops to Iraq but until now has declined to put a figure on the deployment.
The decision was announced three days ahead of Rumsfeld's visit, on his first trip to South Korea since his appointment as U.S. defense secretary in 2001.
Earlier this week, Rumsfeld called on allies to supply "a lot of troops" for duty in Iraq, rocked by increasingly active opposition to U.S.-led occupation forces.
But the U.S. request for additional South Korean troops has split public opinion and triggered pro- and anti-troop dispatch demonstrations in the country.
Roh recently spoke of his personal "agony" in considering the request and has sent two fact-finding missions to Iraq to survey the risks South Korean troops would face.
Rumsfeld will meet with Roh and top officials to discuss the troop dispatch issue and also a year-long standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions, as observers said that the U.S. official would exercise pressures on the head of the country that host 37,000 troops.
Meanwhile, the Philippines said it "is committed to continue its support to the coalition operations in Iraq."
However, reiterating that it would "maintain its humanitarian presence in Iraq," the Asian country's officials said the government would be briefed by the head of the Filipino contingent on the situation there this week.
A total of 178 Filipino soldiers, policemen and social and health workers are serving in areas in southern Iraq administered by Polish forces, and the government had earlier said it would increase the size of the contingent to 500 by early next year.
Rumsfeld, for his part, acknowledged the dangers facing foreign forces in Iraq, saying that countries making military contribution in the war-ravaged country should do so "with their eyes open."
"It's been a violent country for a long time and it very likely will be for a long time. Certainly people need to participate there with their eyes open."
"It's a dangerous country, it's a violent country," he said.
He said remnants of the former regime of Saddam Hussein were "purposefully targeting people in an attempt to get them to leave so they can take back that country."
Although Washington blames the rising attacks on the former regime's remnants, feelings of frustration and deep resentment are rising among ordinary Iraqis over the continued occupation as well as the U.S. military provocations, random shootings and mass detention of innocent civilians.
November 13, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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