Self-Defense Forces dispatch ceremony held amidst protests

About 130 people took to the streets of Asahikawa City, Hokkaido, on February 1st in protest against the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq as Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro was encouraging the troops at a ceremonial send-off at an SDF army garrison.

They distributed flyers calling for "No troops to Iraq!" Reflecting citizens' deep concerns about the dispatch, more than 440 passers-by signed their names in opposition to the dispatch.

Ms. Kato Naoko, a 60-year-old Asahikawa resident, said, "I'm absolutely opposed to the dispatch. My heart aches if my children or neighbors are among SDF personnel going to combat zones. Pension benefits are going to be reduced; I will barely be able to survive. I 'm strongly opposed to the use of tax money for sending SDF troops to Iraq."

In Tokyo on the same day, a group of "mathematicians for peace" held a protest meeting in Shibuya and issued a statement criticizing the dispatch of the SDF to Iraq.

In Kawasaki City, about 300 people including peace activists, medical and welfare workers, and environmentalists held a rally and demonstration chanting, "Stop the unconstitutional dispatch of the SDF." (end)

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