World

U.S. encourages Japan to send troops to Afghanistan

The United States says it would welcome a move by traditionally pacifist Japan to expand its role in Afghanistan by sending its first non-combat troops, a top U.S. official said Tuesday.

The United States says it would welcome a move by traditionally pacifist Japan to expand its role in Afghanistan by sending its first non-combat troops, a top U.S. official said Tuesday.

Japan's support of NATO-led coalition forces in Afghanistan has been limited to refuelling their ships in the Indian Ocean since 2001.

But Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda indicated last week that the government has sent a fact-finding team to investigate whether to send troops to Afghanistan on a reconstruction mission.

"The U.S. and Japan share a common interest for stability in Afghanistan," William Burns, the U.S. undersecretary for political affairs, told reporters Tuesday.

"We would welcome any further support that Japan can provide."

Japan has a pacifist constitution that forbids it from engaging in military warfare abroad. The constitution was drafted by U.S. occupation authorities after the Second World War and never amended, though parliament has passed a bill laying out steps for holding a referendum on it.

Under former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, the constitution was stretched to allow Japanese troops to participate in peacekeeping efforts in Iraq from 2004 to 2006, the first time since the Second World War that Japanese soldiers had entered a combat zone.

Japan's refuelling of warships was temporarily suspended last fall when the government's opposition refused to back an extension of the mission. In January, Fukuda's government ordered two naval ships to resume support of the mission.

With files from the Associated Press

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