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Former PM criticizes Japan's Iraq troop deployment
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-05 22:52

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said Thursday in Beijing that Japan should not send its troops to Iraq because it violates his country's pacifist constitution.

The law only allows overseas deployments of security forces for humanitarian aid and limits activities to "non-combat zones," he said.

"Without approval from the United Nations, Japan cannot send its troops (to Iraq),'' Murayama said in an interview with China Daily.

The first troops of a main contingent of Japanese, known as the Ground Self-Defence Force, left for Iraq on Tuesday.

Japan plans to send about 1,000 military personnel to help rebuild Iraq after last year's war. It is the first deployment of Japanese troops to a war zone since World War II and finds the Japanese Government bracing for the possibility of the first Japanese military casualties since then.

Murayama, together with Ikuo Hirayama, is leading a Japanese delegation in China composed of members of the Japan-China Friendship Association.

He also criticized on Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, indicating the visits have hurt the feelings of Asian people who suffered a lot under Japanese colonial rule.

The Yasukuni Shrine was built to honour dead Japanese soldiers. Among those honoured were 14 Class-A Japanese war criminals from World War II, including the war time Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.

On the New Year's Day, Koizumi made an official visit to the shrine -- his fourth in three years to the site.

Murayama said that Koizumi's visit also went against the constitution, which stipulates that politics and religion should be separate.

"As the head of government, his visit shows politics have intervened in religious affairs,'' he added.

After Koizumi's visit, China described the act as "seriously hurting" Chinese and other Asian nations, and "undermining the political basis of Sino-Japanese relations."

Gao Hong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Japan Research Office, told China Daily that many problems between the two countries come from historical issues.

"Wrong historical concepts (such as denying the history of Japan invading other nations) by some Japanese politicians has caused deteriorating bilateral relations and worsened feelings of the two peoples,"Gao said.

Murayama said the governments of China and Japan should take actions to "break their deadlock'' in bilateral ties and resume top-level visits as soon as possible.

He said the two countries enjoy closer and better economic relations than political ties, which he termed "abnormal.''

Murayama, served as Japanese prime minister from 1994 to 1996, made an important speech on August 15, 1995, admitting Japan's colonial rule and aggression had caused tremendous suffering and harm to many Asian countries.

Gao said that Murayama's speech reflected "a kind of positive choice'' made by Japanese politicians to correctly deal with bilateral relations.

However, recent remarks and political acts by some Japanese politicians have gradually gone astray from the principles of Murayama's words, which is regrettable, said Gao.

Murayama said that the two countries should increase their exchanges in various sectors to push forward their ties.

He disclosed that a group of traditional Japanese sumo wrestlers will visit China in June.

In 1973, shortly after the two countries resumed diplomatic relations, the late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai invited a sumo tour to China, which played a positive role in bilateral relations.

Murayama said he hoped the upcoming visit will achieve the similar results.

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