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Japan Says It Wants to Assist in Protection of Gulf Shipping

September 10, 1987|From Reuters

TOKYO — Japan is urgently considering how it can help Western nations protecting shipping in the Persian Gulf, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said today.

Yoshifumi Matsuda told a news conference the ministry is investigating what it can do without becoming militarily involved.

"Japan should do something . . . to help the United States and the Western allies in their efforts in keeping the peace and stability in that area, particularly the maintenance of safe navigation in the gulf," he said.

Japan, which gets more than half its crude oil from the gulf, has recently come under intense domestic and overseas pressure to take action to protect shipping from attacks by warring Iran and Iraq.

Matsuda made clear that Japan is precluded by its peace constitution from sending warships.

Although it could legally send minesweepers, he indicated that such action would probably not have the support of the Japanese people. There is also a danger Japan could become militarily involved if it sent its minesweepers, which experts consider among the best in the world.

Besides direct financial contributions to gulf peacekeeping efforts, Tokyo could ease the burden on Washington by paying a greater share of the cost of stationing American troops in Japan, Matsuda said.

It could also step up its aid to Latin America, an area of intense political interest to the United States, he said.

U.S. congressmen have sharply criticized Japan for failing to pay its share of the costs of protecting gulf shipping.

Japanese seamen and shipowners, alarmed by last week's Iranian attack on a Japanese tanker, have also been pressing the Tokyo government for action.

Matsuda said Japan would find it difficult to give money to the U.S. Navy to compensate for its gulf actions, although Tokyo could easily contribute to any efforts sponsored by the United Nations.

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