The Japanese cabinet on 9 December ratified a plan to send some 1,000 personnel to participate in the US-led reconstruction effort, despite popular objection to the deployment. ‘We are not going to war,’ said Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on announcing government’s approval of the plan. ‘The situation in Iraq is severe. We know it is not necessarily safe, but our Self Defence Forces must still fulfill this mission.’ The plan outlines an initial deployment of about 600 soldiers, armored vehicles and three C130 transport aircraft – the country’s largest since the end of the Second World War.

The news of Japan’s commitment was followed hours later by a final decision from South Korea to deploy troops to help in the reconstruction effort. The decision, endorsed at a cabinet security meeting will allow for combat and non-combat troops to be sent to Iraq. Korean soldiers will not take part in counterinsurgency operations, said the national security adviser Ra Jong-yil. ‘The South Korean contingent will take on responsibility for support of Iraqi peace and rehabilitation, and will independently take charge of a certain region,’ Jong-yil said. ‘The Iraqi military and police will be in charge of security in that region.’

South Korea’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Yoon Young-Kwan, said the deployment would ‘play a positive role in improving South Korea-US relations’ (MEED 9:12:03).