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Japanese Leader Visits East Timor - 2002-04-29

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is wrapping up a visit to East Timor, where he met president-elect Xanana Gusmao and pledged Japan's support for the new country.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Japanese troops serving as peacekeepers at their base in the East Timorese capital, Dili.

Mr. Koizumi also met with East Timor's president-elect, Xanana Gusmao and other leaders, including acting Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta and the head of the government, Mari Alkatri.

Japan's involvement in East Timor is warmly welcomed by East Timorese leaders, who face the huge task of forming a new government and rebuilding the territory.

Much of East Timor was burnt to the ground after anti-independence militia groups laid siege to the territory when it voted for independence from Indonesia in August 1999.

The 700 peacekeepers deployed in East Timor constitute the largest peacekeeping mission Japan has ever undertaken. According to the Japanese Constitution, it is illegal to deploy troops overseas except on peacekeeping operations. Most Japanese peacekeepers in East Timor are repairing damaged bridges and roads.

Mr. Koizumi is the first world leader to visit East Timor since Xanana Gusmao won a landslide victory in the nation's first presidential election earlier this month. The visit also comes less than a month before East Timor's United Nations caretakers formally withdraw from the territory on May 20 and East Timor becomes the world's newest nation.