On June 20 when the government officially announced its decision to withdraw the Ground Self-Defense Force from Iraq, Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo demanded that the Air SDF also be immediately pulled out of the country.
Shii stated this at a meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro held prior to the government announcement. He said that continuation and expansion of the ASDF's activities will be devoted to supporting U.S. forces' combat operations in Iraq.
Social Democratic Party President Fukushima Mizuho also attended the meeting.
Stating that the JCP has been opposed to the dispatch of the GSDF to Iraq and that it stands to reason that it is withdrawn, Shii asked Koizumi if the government plans to expand the ASDF operations from Iraq's southern part to wider areas, including Baghdad and Assad, located west of Baghdad.
The prime minister answered that the government will examine the question later.
In answer to Shii asking what conditions will enable the government to decide the withdrawal of the ASDF, Koizumi stated that he is only be able to say that a decision will be made based on the Law Concerning the Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq.
Criticizing the government for failing to make a decision as an independent nation, Shii said that Koizumi's attitude will pave the way for having the ASDF continue to assist U.S. forces until the United States leaves Iraq.
The JCP chair said, "Baghdad and Assad are the cities where heavy fighting continues with U.S. forces carrying out a fierce cleanup operation. If the ASDF operates there, it will be dragged into a position to directly support the 'mop-up' operation, which is nothing less than a combat operation." Shii pointed out that the Iraq Special Measures Law does not provide the grounds for such activities and stressed the serious implications of such a measure because it will make Japan directly involved in the worsening conditions in Iraq.
At a press conference after the meeting, Shii stated that the prime minister must not make the expansion of the ASDF's activities a present to prove his loyalty to the United States at the Japan-U.S. summit on June 29.
- Akahata, June 21, 2006