U.S. Welcomes Japan's Commitment to Iraq

December 9, 2004

State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli briefed reporters December 9 in Washington. During the briefing, he discussed Japan's decision to extend its deployment of troops to Iraq, provide $5 billion in assistance and forgive part of the Iraqi debt. The spokesman praised Japan's commitment to people of Iraq and positive role in the international community.

Following is an excerpt from the briefing transcript.

QUESTION: Adam, while you're on Iraq, the Japan Government - Japanese Government, decided to keep their troops there for another year. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. ERELI: The United States warmly welcomes Japan's decision to extend the deployment of its Self-Defense Forces to Iraq for an additional 12 months. We would expect that these personnel will continue to make important contributions to reconstruction and humanitarian assistance for Iraq, as they have been doing for these past months. In addition, let me say that we highly value Japan's leadership in reconstruction efforts in Iraq. I think it's important to point out that in addition to Japan's deployment of its Self-Defense Forces, that country has pledged $5 billion in assistance. It chairs the International Reconstruction Fund facility for Iraq. And it hosted the October Donors' Committee Meeting in Tokyo.

In addition, Japan, as part of the Paris Club, agreed to forgive 80 percent of Iraq's debt. All of these contributions exemplify to the people of Iraq the international community's commitment to Iraq's stable and successful future. And the extension of this - of the deployment is another important symbol for Iraq as it prepares for elections.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up to that.

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the fact that about 60 percent, 70 percent of Japanese people think that the Japanese troops should pull out of Iraq?

MR. ERELI: Public opinion polls are what they are. I think the Government of Iraq and the people of - I'm sorry. The Government of Japan and the people of Japan respect this, have made a commitment to regional stability, made a commitment to the people of Iraq. This is something that reflects, we think, favorably on Japan, and shows that Japan is playing an important and positive role in the international community, and that is a virtue that is not lost on us and we think is not lost on the Japanese public.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to Iraq for one second?


QUESTION: On the Japanese troops, Japan is one of the best, biggest allies of the United States -

MR. ERELI: True.

QUESTION: And the best that they could do is just keep their troops up for another year. They didn't increase the number of troops. They didn't -

MR. ERELI: I don't - I wouldn't - you make that sound like that's not a big deal or an important thing.

QUESTION: Oh, it's a significant contribution.


QUESTION: But are you not disappointed that they could do a little bit more?

MR. ERELI: No. We are very - we are, I think, very satisfied with Japan's contribution. As I said, you know, the troops are a significant part of that, but it goes much beyond - it goes much beyond the Self-Defense Forces. It goes to a very broad political, economic, diplomatic commitment to Iraq and to the future of Iraq, and that's - they're playing a very important role internationally in helping bring support to the needs of the Iraqi people. The Defense Forces there are part of that, as I said, a significant part, but not the whole picture. And if you look at the whole picture, if you look at any one of the ingredients of the picture, parts of the picture, they, in and of themselves, are noteworthy and important, and all taken together I think are really exemplary.

QUESTION: Thank you.