Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has officially ordered Japan’s 550 non-combat troops to come home from Iraq. The announcement brings an end to a mission that has divided his country. Although no timetable was given, it is expected that the withdrawal will begin at the end of this month.
The presence of Japanese troops, who were mainly engaged with the re-building of Iraq, has tested the limits of Japan’s pacifist post-war reconstruction. Some back home are suspicious that the government was persuaded by Washington to participate in the Iraqi operation. While others have just been grateful that none of their soldiers have been killed. One Japanese woman said: “It was good that no one got hurt and that they did so much work. I am sure that their work has helped the civilians in Iraq. It was good that they went. Well I can only say this because no one did get hurt.” Another was more doubtful of the reasons for going in the first place.She said: “It seems to me that Japan was forced to go further than was necessary. There are lots of issues here in Japan that need dealing with so it’s good to withdraw the troops.” Japan is now believed to be considering expanding air self-defence operations in Iraq to include the transport of medical supplies and UN personnel, following a request from the UN chief, Kofi Annan.