Japanese Politician Wants to Accelerate Investigation into Iraq War

Friday, December 24, 2010

TOKYO- (PanOrient News) A group of lawmakers from all of Japan's political parties – with the notable exception of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and its former government allies New Komeito – have established a committee to investigate Japan's involvement in the Iraq War and is asking the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan to "accelerate the investigation progress."

Tsuyoshi Saito, the chairman of the committee and a member of the House of Representatives for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, told PanOrient News that his group submitted numerous requests to the government earlier this month after it had held its first formal meeting.

PanOrient News interviewed Chairman Saito at his office in the House of Representatives building in Tokyo.

PanOrient News: Could you give us some background on your committee?

Tsuyoshi Saito: I am trying to launch an investigation committee on the Iraq War and this is supported by a group of Diet members from both houses. In March, I submitted the request of our group – which consists of more than 100 members of the Diet – to (then) Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. Mr. (Katsuya) Okada, who was foreign minister at the time also received it. We would like to see quick action on this issue.

PanOrient News: What has been the reaction of the current government to your inquiry?

Tsuyoshi Saito: The Iraq investigation committee is progressing in the United Kingdom and I heard they might announce their findings by next spring. Former Prime Minister (Tony) Blair set up the committee there and its members consist of both Conservative and Labour Mps, who are reviewing records of the war. During the era of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, we opposed the war. Since the Japanese government changed from the LDP to the DPJ, we think there should be more aggressive action taken on this. For the sake for the people suffering in Iraq and for the restoration of Iraq, Japan's government must review its records of the Iraq War. How we will move forward on this is still unclear, but Japanese governments do not exactly have a culture of reviewing the wars they were engaged in. However, I not only want to apply pressure on the government to do something, I also want to show them a concrete plan.

PanOrient News: Has there been any pressure or any interference?

Tsuyoshi Saito: We haven't heard anything. I believe that Japan is trying to make a firm approach towards setting up an investigation of the war and this should boost the level of credibility between Japan and the United States. It would also serve as a message from Asia to the rest of the world. Even the U.S Congress has admitted there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. On May 15, 2007, we submitted a letter asking the government to review the judgment of the Cabinet regarding their support of the Iraq War in spite of the fact that there was no evidence that Iraq had WMDs. At that time, the Diet promised to inspect the government's decision to support the war. If we do not fulfill our promises, as Diet members, we would bring shame on ourselves. It is the duty of the government to keep this promise.

PanOrient News: Have you been in touch with anyone from the Arab world?

Tsuyoshi Saito: Unfortunately, I have not visited any Arabic countries. However, I visited related embassies, and would like to make more visits to discuss many issues. Today, many Japanese are preoccupied with their daily lives due to the bad economy, and maybe they are not so interested in an investigation into the war. However, I would like to make progress with my activities since without an investigation we won't be able to figure out why the situation in Iraq turned out as it did.

PanOrient News: How do you see the relationship between Japan and United States under the former government led by the Liberal Democratic Party and the current DPJ-led government? Do you think Japan's foreign policy has become more independent, as DPJ leaders promised during their election campaign?

Tsuyoshi Saito: We cannot suddenly say “goodbye” to the United States. We have a long-term relationship. Japan has continually emphasized the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
From the international perspective, it is impossible for any country to continue such a close relationship for more than 50 years. Since the end of the Cold War, the world situation has changed. Japan should review how the world has shifted and think about how it should relate to the world. Now, China has become indispensable for Japan, rather than the United States. Now perhaps the trilateral relationship between Japan, China and the U.S. is the key. The Japan-U.S. relationship should be valued as usual, but, as the DPJ says, Japan's focus should be on Asia. This is a new diplomatic stance of the DPJ.
But now, the relationship between Japan and China has become a little rocky because of the ship collision near the Senkaku Islands, but it does not mean this has broken the mutual confidence between Japan and China. I think the problem will be solved through dialogue. In a sense, the problem has indicated that the world has shifted to a multi-polar world as opposed to the former world in which the United States was the main pillar. I want Japan to play a role as a member of Asia, while treasuring the U.S-Japan relationship.

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