JAPAN'S Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu will meet with President Bush this weekend in New York. He hopes to tell Mr. Bush that Japan will send personnel, as well as money, to add to Middle East peacekeeping efforts. Japan has already announced $4 billion in aid to the United States-led multinational force and to Gulf countries facing economic difficulties. But pressure has mounted for Japan to do more.
Mr. Kaifu will be in New York to attend the United Nations summit on children. He and Bush will discuss a Japanese plan to dispatch a so-called United Nations Peace Cooperation Corps, which is expected to provide nonmilitary logistical and medical support to Gulf forces.
Negotiations in the Diet (legislature) on a bill to create Japan's UN Peace Cooperation Corps are ``certainly one of the main focuses of [Kaifu's] personal efforts in fulfilling his promise'' to boost Japan's contribution to Gulf security, says Foreign Ministry spokesman Taizo Watanabe.
Japan dispatched part of a 100-member medical team to Saudi Arabia last week and sent two flights to Amman, Jordan, to rescue Filipino, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan refugees.
Heated discussion continues in Japan as to whether Self-Defense Force (SDF) members should be included in the UN Peace Cooperation Corps. Japan's Constitution and existing SDF laws do not provide for rescue and support activities overseas.
Some Diet members from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party favor revising laws to enable SDF personnel to go to the Gulf. That proposal may be challenged in the opposition-dominated upper house of the Diet.
The most likely scenario is the use of noncombatant SDF members in the Gulf under both SDF and the Peace Cooperation Corps status without revising the law. Seizaburo Sato of the International Institute for Global Peace says that if legislative procedures are delayed, ``I fear that Japan's contribution may not be in time.... Kaifu should take his political risk [and] make a decision.''
In Beijing, Jiang Zemin, the general secretary of China's Communist Party, indirectly expressed concern last Saturday to visiting former Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita over possible use of SDF forces abroad.
After the summit in New York, Kaifu will carry out his postponed tour to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.