Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Should Japan Be Generous?
KUBOTA Seiichi  / Journalist

October 9, 2003
Prime Minister Jun'ichiro Koizumi's reshuffled cabinet is under pressure from the administration of President George W. Bush to make "generous contributions" in financial terms to aid the reconstruction of Iraq. If the Prime Minister Koizumi, who is anxious to contribute in personnel by dispatching the Self-Defense Forces, wholly complies with US demands for financial aid, countries that are critical of the United States will harden their attitudes toward Japan more than ever, and Japan's authority within the United Nations will inevitably diminish. Japan needs to urgently reconsider its policy on Iraq.

On the occasion of the Gulf War, Japan donated approximately $14 billion to support the operations of the multinational forces. The truth of the matter, though, is that Japan did not really donate the money of its own will but was forced to contribute it. This figure meant that each Japanese national contributed more than \10,000 per head. The government struggled to scrape up the money, issuing special government bonds and increasing the petroleum tax. It sent six minesweepers of the Marine SDF to the Persian Gulf for mine removal. Still, Japan's cooperation was not specially recognized

The US government estimates that in addition to the roughly $20 billion included in its supplementary budget for the 2004 fiscal year, reconstruction of Iraq will require a total of between $50 billion and $75 billion over the next several years, and it intends to have Japan and European countries shoulder this burden. If this comes to pass, for Japan it will be the nightmare of the Gulf War revisited.

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has only remarked that he hopes "the generosity of spirit which marks the Japanese people will be continued" and has not mentioned a specific amount that Japan should contribute, perhaps out of consideration for Koizumi as he faces the general election. But based on the fact that Japan's contribution rates for the Gulf War and the war on Afghanistan were founded on its 20-percent share of assessed contributions to the UN, we can assume that Japan's share will be $10 billion of the required $50 billion..

The Koizumi Government has pledged to cap new government bond issues, so covering the expenses by issuing special bonds will not be an option this time around. Koizumi's plan for the time being seems to be to use reserve funds, but if the contributions must continue over an extended period, the government will have to compile a supplementary budget next fiscal year. There is no question that this will create a drag on Japan's recuperating economy. Japan is not in a condition to be giving "generous" support.

The Iraqi and Palestinian issues cannot be considered in isolation from one another. This is clear from the fact that prior to the war on Iraq, President Bush declared that the United States would liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, bring peace to Palestine, and raise the flag of freedom and reform in the entire Middle East. If Japan goes along with the United States in regard to Iraqi reconstruction, it will have no choice but to do the same for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As an ally supporting America's war on Iraq, it is only natural for Japan to commit itself to the reconstruction of Iraq. But it does not make sense for Japan to swallow all US demands. Even though giving financial support may be unavoidable to some degree, Japan should not rush forward with the dispatch of SDF troops to Iraq. By hastily sending troops out of concern for its relationship with the United States, the government could call up a storm of disapproval on the domestic front, which could then lead directly to anti-US sentiments. It is surely the United States that fears this outcome the most.

Prime Minister Koizumi should clearly state his yeses and noes at the bilateral summit meeting that will be held in Tokyo this month. If not, Japan risks being seen to be standing behind America's "iron fist" policy - which would certainly be unfortunate for Japan.

The writer is a journalist
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

久保田 誠一  / ジャーナリスト

2003年 10月 9日









一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟