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Japan's defense chief backtracks on criticism of U.S. invasion of Iraq

Japan's defense chief backtracks on criticism of U.S. invasion of Iraq

Japan's defense minister backtracked Friday on earlier comments calling the United States' invasion of Iraq a mistake, but said he thought the decision should have been more cautiously made.
"I did not say it was a mistake, but I thought at the time (the U.S.) should have been more cautious," Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma said in response to a reporter's question after a Cabinet meeting.
Kyuma also suggested that English translations of his remarks had led to some of the confusion.
"Instead of being in the past tense, the comment came out very strongly. Perhaps it's the difference between Japanese and English," he said.
Kyuma told a news conference Wednesday that U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq "based on an assumption that weapons of mass destruction existed was a mistake."
It was rare criticism from Washington's closest Asian ally, and diverged from Tokyo's policy of backing the U.S. invasion. Kyuma has been under intense pressure since to step back from his comments.
Kyuma told reporters Thursday he stood behind the Cabinet's support for the U.S. attack, and said his comments questioning the decision to invade Iraq represented only his personal view.
He also met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that evening to discuss the remarks, and held talks separately with Foreign Minister Taro Aso Friday.
Abe told reporters Thursday evening that Kyuma had said his comments represented his thinking before the invasion, The Nikkei business newspaper reported. Kyuma told him he did not dissent from the Cabinet decision on the invasion, it said.
Kyuma's remarks on Wednesday came hours after Bush implored the U.S. Congress in his annual State of the Union Address to back his unpopular plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq, saying it represents the best chance in a war America must not lose.
Despite Bush's plan to boost troop numbers, Japan will not hastily decide whether to continue to provide airlifts in support of U.S.-led forces in Iraq, Kyuma said Wednesday. The airlifts are set to end in July.
Japan sent ground troops to Iraq's south on a humanitarian mission after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, but its contingent was pulled out last year.


Updated : 2021-07-31 05:44 GMT+08:00