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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

1st Japan ASDF plane may fly to Iraq

PLA Daily 2004-03-02

TOKYO, March 1 (Xinhuanet) -- The Japanese government began making arrangements Monday to send the first Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF)plane to Iraq from Kuwait, possibly this week, to airlift humanitarian aid goods there.

The ASDF is considering flying a C-130 aircraft to a military airport near the southern Iraqi city of Samawah, where Japanese ground troops are based for noncombat operations.

Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba told reporters Monday afternoon that there would be no problems in dispatching the aircraft to Iraq from Ali Al Salem airbase in Kuwait City.

"We have no information that there is any trouble. Our unit is already prepared," Takemasa Moriya, vice minister of the agency, said at a separate news conference.

A senior official of the agency, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "ASDF aircraft will not fly to Baghdad airport for a while."

Before deciding on the beginning of Japan's airlift operations, the senior official also stressed the importance of working closely with the US-led coalition forces.

Japan has deployed all three branches of the Self-Defense Forces -- the ASDF, Ground Self-Defense Force and Maritime Self-Defense Force -- to perform humanitarian and reconstruction work in Iraq, with Samawah as the base for such activities.

The ASDF has formed a unit of 280 personnel for the Iraq mission, while about 550 ground troops will be deployed in Samawah by late March, including half already there, to provide water and medical aid.

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