Democratic Party of Japan leader Naoto Kan urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday to step down, claiming he has violated the Constitution by dispatching the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq.

Kan said the dispatch violates the Constitution because it puts the SDF at risk of being embroiled in a conflict. The Constitution prohibits Japan from having a military or using force to settle international disputes.

Advance teams from the Air Self-Defense Force and Ground Self-Defense Force have already been sent to Iraq, and the main units are expected to follow.

“What if the SDF units are attacked and strike back?” Kan asked during debate before the plenary session of the House of Representatives. “Wouldn’t it be considered a use of force?

“From the standpoint of logic, the prime minister should give clear reasons why the dispatch of the SDF is necessary and then propose a constitutional amendment” before sending forces to Iraq, Kan said.

Koizumi responded by saying that while the local security situation is unpredictable, it still satisfies the conditions stipulated by the special law that allows the SDF to be dispatched to Iraq. The law states that the SDF can engage in humanitarian activities in “noncombat zones.”

The prime minister went on to say that should fighting erupt, the government would order the SDF to move to another area to conduct their activities. He said the troops can defend themselves if attacked, and this cannot be considered use of force.

“There’s no problem with the SDF’s activities, which are carried out in accordance with the special legislation,” Koizumi said. “I don’t think the activities of the SDF (in Iraq) are unconstitutional.”

Kan said the initial reason for the war on Iraq — its alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction — is debatable, given that such weapons have still not been found, even after the end of major combat in May. He accused Koizumi of sending troops abroad without any solid diplomatic policy.

Citing the fact that the status of the SDF would be the same as the military of the United States and its other allies under the auspices of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Kan said Koizumi was speaking with a forked tongue in saying that the SDF was not being sent to participate in military activities.

“The dispatch is an act that infringes on the Constitution,” he said. “(Koizumi) lacks the qualities needed for a prime minister of a democratic state and therefore we call for his resignation.”

He also called for the resignation of New Komeito leader Takenori Kanzaki for his party’s role in paving the way for the dispatch as the LDP’s junior coalition partner.

On North Korea, Kan asked Koizumi whether he intends to dispatch LDP Secretary General Shinzo Abe as a special envoy to Pyongyang to resolve the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals and get the North to allow the families of five abductees who were allowed to return to Japan in October 2002 to come to Japan.

Kan said Abe is well-versed in the matter, but called Foreign Ministry bureaucrats incompetent.

Koizumi said his administration attaches utmost importance to the issue but does not plan to send Abe as a special envoy.

Kan also lambasted Koizumi for failing to achieve his pledges made in November before the Lower House general election.

He cited shortcomings in such areas as pension system reform, the privatization of semigovernmental expressway firms, decentralization of authority, fiscal reconstruction and job creation.

Toward the end of the debate, Koizumi refused to answer most of the followup questions asked by DJP lawmaker Takeaki Matsumoto, calling them differences of opinion. Koizumi’s actions threw the session into turmoil.

“It’s unforgivable to refuse to respond during Diet deliberations,” Kan told reporters after the plenary session.

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