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US Envoy, Japanese Opposition Leader Spar Over Involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan

  • Liz Noh

With opposition control of Japan's Upper House heralding possible change in the traditionally strong alliance between Japan and the United States, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer has met with the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, Ichiro Ozawa. The two men sparred over whether Japan's contribution to U.S.-led military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan would continue. Liz Noh reports from Tokyo.

In a room packed with Japanese media at the Democratic Party of Japan headquarters, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer and the leader of Japan's main opposition party, Ichiro Ozawa, met on Wednesday for the first time since the Upper House elections.

Ozawa has said he plans to oppose the extension of Japan's anti-terrorism law, which allows the Japanese navy in the Indian Ocean to provide fuel and supplies to U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. He also wants to withdraw the 200 air force personnel stationed in Kuwait, airlifting supplies to U.S. troops in Iraq.

Ambassador Schieffer stressed Japan's vital contributions to the coalition taskforce in fighting terrorism.

"When we think of this issue, we think of it as really an issue that we hope would be above partisan politics in Japan," Schieffer said. "And we think that this is an international task force that has been put together to oppose terrorism."

Ozawa patiently listened to Schieffer's 15-minute presentation. But his final response was firm.

Ozawa says the U.S.-led operations, in which Japan currently participates, do not have United Nations Security Council authorization.

He said that he shared U.S. views on terrorism, but thinks each country should choose its own method to fight it. He supports Japan's contributions in the world, but says they must fall within the framework of a multinational effort, endorsed by the United Nations.

The meeting ended as each party presented their case.

Japan's anti-terrorism law expires November 1. It has been extended three times since the law was enacted under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Japan's current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to extend it again. Opposition control of the Upper House could at least stall that extension.

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