U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has met with Japanese officials in Tokyo to build support for a possible American strike on Iraq. He warned that Iraq remains a threat to the United States and its allies.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage spent two days huddled in talks with top Japanese officials about Iraq and related issues, but told a crowded news conference that he did not make any specific requests of Tokyo.
After meeting with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi and leaders of the ruling coalition, he underscored the Bush Administration's contention that the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein presents a menace.
"I came to discuss our views of Iraq," he explained. " I think Vice President Cheney laid out very well the other day our belief that an Iraq left unattended is a threat to its neighbors and ultimately ourselves given the fact that the regime in Baghdad has had a consistent program striving for weapons of mass destruction and has indeed used chemical weapons on its own population."
Mr. Armitage also said that Iraq might be harboring al-Qaida terrorists in areas controlled by the Kurdish minority. He said U.S. allies would be briefed on the evidence before Washington decides to take any military action.
Mr. Armitage, in Tokyo for the last leg of a five-nation Asian tour which took him to Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and China, says that Washington plans to make a persuasive argument for pushing the Iraqi leader out of power.
"We believe as we move forward that we will be able to make a very compelling case for regime change. Having said that, the President of the United States has made it very clear that he has made no decisions and that he is intent on full consultations [with allied nations]," he said.
Japan is a staunch ally of the United States, but its position on a strike on Iraq remains unclear. The country has a pacifist constitution, which limits the role of the country's so-called self defense forces.
Parliament passed laws last October allowing the Japanese military to provide non-combat support to the U.S. military anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan. But the legislation is temporary, and limits Japan's cooperation to those related to the September 11 terror attacks.
Japanese newspapers say that some lawmakers in the ruling coalition doubt that Washington has just cause for attacking Iraq. But sources from the Foreign Ministry say that Japan might offer humanitarian assistance to refugees and other displaced people if and when a military strike takes place.