A new public opinion survey shows that about 70 percent of Japanese adults support mobilizing the country's military to provide logistical backing to U.S.-led forces, which are preparing for possible attacks on terrorists. This strong public support could help speed passage of new laws needed to enable Japan to use its defense forces in international conflicts.
Ever since the terrorist assaults in the United States on September 11, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is now visiting Washington, has stood firmly behind his nation's most important ally.
He has said that Tokyo will move to enact legislation to give the country's self-defense forces broader responsibilities in overseas conflicts short of direct combat. Japan's post-World War II constitution bans military action except in defense of the country's borders.
Japan's parliament is set to reconvene Thursday and lawmakers are expected debate the issue.
The public appears to firmly support the prime minister's initiative to help the U.S. fight against suspected terrorists. A new poll from the Nihon Keizai newspaper shows that more than two-thirds of Japanese citizens believe in mobilizing the military to logistically support U.S. forces.
Ken Davies, an analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, explains some of the reasons why. "One thing is they do not want the sort of loss of face that many people feel Japan suffered 10 years ago during the Gulf War when Japan was unable to participate directly and just had to send money and some of the allies criticized Japan," he said. "Another thing is that people feel that Mr. Koizumi is starting to get working on economic reform, and they would also like to see Japan's status raised in the world."
Mr. Koizumi himself has told the public that the fight is not one for the United States alone - since there is no longer a safe place after this month's devastating terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Mr. Koizumi has already offered to send Japanese naval vessels on intelligence gathering missions in support of the United States.