World News

NATO says Japan to sound out possible Afghan role

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Japan will send a reconnaissance team to Afghanistan to explore how it can support the international peacekeeping and reconstruction effort there, a NATO spokesman said on Wednesday.

“I understand Japan is sending a reconnaissance mission to Afghanistan to see on the ground what can be done,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai told a regular briefing.

The team would be welcome to discuss options for support with the 50,000-plus NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), he said.

“I am sure ISAF would be willing to have that discussion,” the spokesman added. Allied force commanders have repeatedly complained that the international effort is under-resourced.

Local media quoted Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda last month as saying Japan could send military personnel for land-based activities in addition to its current navy refuelling mission.

No one expects Japan to send combat troops. A more likely possibility would be to deploy personnel in support of the so-called provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) carrying out rebuilding and development projects across the country.

But Japan’s pacifist constitution makes any such deployment sensitive. and Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba was also quoted last month as saying it was too early to begin detailed considerations.

Reporting by Mark John