TOKYO (AP) - In an effort to sidestep international criticism, Japan pledged U.S.
$100 million last month to fund other nations' military operations in Somalia but
refused to send its own troops, foreign ministry officials said.
Japan's contribution will go into a special U.N. trust fund to help nations that
provide troops to Somalia but lack the cash. The United States, as well as developing
nations, may be recipients of the fund, they said.
Ministry officials, who had been anxious to avoid a repeat of the bitter Gulf War
experience, beamed with pride at what they saw as the speed of Japan's decision,
although it came after announcements from more than a dozen nations, several of them
committing thousands of soldiers to the effort.
"We are happy to be able to make an announcement at a fairly early stage,"
Foreign Ministry spokesman Masamichi Hanabusa said. "It's a good case of how
the Japanese learned a lesson from the Gulf War when we were blamed for doing too
little, too late. This time, we have responded very promptly and adequately."
Japan took seven months after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait to pass in parliament a U.S.
$9 billion aid package for the multinational forces. This time it took Japan nine
days from the marines' landing in Somalia to announce its cash contribution. Japan
sent no troops during the Gulf War but sent minesweepers after the cease-fire.
Japan was able to respond quicker by using the special U.N. fund to get around a
constitutional ban on using force to settle international disputes that has long
made participating in overseas military efforts a thorny issue.
Earlier this year, after months of heated debate, parliament enacted a law allowing
the military to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations, opening the door to
Japan sending troops to the U.N.'s Cambodia operation.
But that law requires a cease-fire and the consent of the nations involved. Both
conditions are not met in Somalia, and Cambodia has been wracked by ceasefire violations
in recent months.
The trust fund for Somalia was set up in the United Nations at Japan's suggestion
to make it easier for Japan to contribute cash for U.N. military operations and avoid
the blunders of the Gulf War experience, ministry officials said.
They acknowledge that the United Nations, as manager of the fund, is free to use
the money for purchasing weapons and overseas military operations in Somalia.
So far, Japan has been the only contributor to the fund, although a foreign ministry
official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said other nations had expressed interest.
Japan is still studying the possibility of sending aid personnel to Somalia and neighboring
African nations, Hanabusa said. A mission to Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya to study
Japan's possible contributions was scheduled for late December.
Another foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new
peacekeeping law may permit Japan's participation in a second-stage U.N. peacekeeping
operation in Somalia.
Japan, which has the world's second largest economy has previously given U.S. $27
million in aid to Somalia.
Germany last month reversed its policy of staying out of international military missions
and promised 1,500 troops to the U.N. operation. It also has flown in about U.S.
$61 million in supplies.
The United States is sending 28,000 soldiers and marines, and more than 200,000 tons
of food to Somalia and refugee areas in Kenya.