Tokyo faces pressure to quit Cambodia force: A minister and the army chief have joined the cry to leave the UN contingent, writes Terry McCarthy

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The Independent Online
HALF A century after Japanese troops launched a war of aggression in Asia that Tokyo has yet fully to atone for, the death of a single Japanese policeman in Cambodia has shocked the country's pacifist sensibilities, and prompted calls for Japan's withdrawal from the United Nations peace-keeping force there.

In what is becoming a highly embarrassing situation for the government, both the head of Japan's defence forces and a cabinet minister have now lent their support to those calling for a Japanese retreat.

Last week Haruyuki Takata - a policeman serving with the UN in north-western Cambodia - was killed by suspected Khmer Rouge guerrillas during an attack that left four other Japanese policemen and five Dutch marines injured. Takata became the first Japanese military casualty overseas since the Second World War.

A month ago, a Japanese civilian volunteer working for the UN was also killed in Cambodia in an upsurge in violence that has claimed the lives of 11 UN personnel in the past six weeks.

To the dismay of UN officials in Phnom Penh, the rest of Japan's 75 policemen in Cambodia now want to leave. 'How many of us will have to die before you decide to pull the Japanese out of Cambodia?' the head of the police unit, Hiroto Yamazaki, asked Keijiro Murata, the Home Affairs Minister, who is visiting the Cambodian capital.

Mr Murata was sent by the government to ask for special protection for Japanese in Cambodia, but the UN has said it cannot show favouritism to individual countries in the multinational force. Some of the Japanese police have already left their posts in the countryside and fled to Phnom Penh, in what UN officials say could be acts of insubordination.

Japan also has 600 soldiers engaged in road building in Cambodia, but they are based in a relatively secure province just south of the capital.

When the government finally passed a law last year allowing Japanese personnel to take part in UN operations overseas, it saw this as the first step towards Japan playing a more responsible role in world affairs.

Ultimately the Japanese government has its eyes on a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

But to overcome strenuous opposition objections, the law was hedged with restrictions, including a provision for the withdrawal of Japanese forces if a ceasefire is no longer operative.

Opponents of the peace-keeping mission say that there is no real ceasefire in Cambodia any more, and that Japanese troops should be pulled out. The Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, has so far rejected such calls, knowing that Japan's international image would suffer greatly if it were seen to run away at the first sign of trouble.

But last week the Posts and Telecommunications Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said the Government should 'seriously consider' withdrawing its troops.

General Toshio Nakayama, director of the Defence Agency, said yesterday that 'undemocratic actions' might take place after the elections in two weeks time, which could require Japan to end its participation in the UN mission in Cambodia.

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