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Monday, October 16, 2006

Japan sets for military role . . .

TOKYO: Japan’s foreign minister Taro Aso Sunday hailed UN sanctions on North Korea and said the country should provide support for the US military in inspecting Pyongyang’s ships, a major step for the pacificist country.

Hours after the UN Security Council’s unanimous resolution in response to North Korea’s declared nuclear test, Aso said it was “only natural” for Japan to help prevent military shipments.

Japan has been officially pacifist since its World War II defeat and its help to US military operations has been confined to far-away Afghanistan and Iraq.

Under a 1999 law, Japan can provide fuel and other back-end support to US warships in “surrounding areas”, but the measure has never been used.

Aso said Japan was especially threatened by North Korea, which fired a missile over Japan’s main island in 1998.

“With the resolution approved, I believe the eyes of the world are on the actions of Japan, which neighbors North Korea and is likely to be the most significantly affected by the crisis,” Aso said.

“Basically speaking, countries under threat from a nuclear power must defend themselves. Our job is to minimize the damage to Japan,” Aso said.

The foreign minister made his comments as the policy chief of Japan’s ruling party called for an active debate on developing atomic weapons.
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