TOKYO — Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will offer a direct pledge to President Bush to dispatch both money and armed personnel to Iraq when the leaders meet in Tokyo next week, Japanese government officials said Friday.
Koizumi's offer to Bush, who will kick off a swing through Asia with a stop in Japan on Friday, is designed to end doubts in Washington about Japan's commitment to the U.S.-led effort in Iraq. Koizumi was one of the rare voices in Asia to clearly support the war, despite Japan's pacifist constitution and polls showing the Japanese people largely opposed to sending troops.
"The U.S. cannot be expected to handle the situation in Iraq on its own," said Hatsuhisa Takashima, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Koizumi "will be making a promise to President Bush to provide money and personnel. Japan is aware of its obligation to the international community, and we will be showing that."
Japanese officials say the number of Self-Defense Forces sent to Iraq would probably be in the hundreds. They will probably be confined to relatively secure areas and will have strict rules of engagement prohibiting them from firing on enemies unless they come under fire. They will deal mostly with water, sanitation, transportation and energy supplies.
So far, 29 countries besides the U.S. have sent a total of 22,000 people to Iraq on security and humanitarian missions, but Washington is eager for more.
Chile, which opposed Washington at the U.N. Security Council before the war, is open to sending troops to Iraq if they are part of a U.N.-authorized multinational force, Defense Minister Michelle Bachelet said Friday.