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Japan's Peacekeeping Bill Stalls Ruling Party Falters in Bid to Reverse Constitutional Ban on Deploying Armed Forces Abroad. AFTER PEARL HARBOR

Article excerpt

A STATEMENT by President Bush and an embarrassing brawl among Japanese politicians have helped to stall a bill that would authorize the first overseas dispatch of Japan's Army since World War II.

The bill, which would allow the military to join United Nations peacekeeping forces, legally sidesteps a constitutional mandate against Japan ever using force in international conflicts. It requires that Japanese troops serve only when a cease-fire is in place and, in certain cases, outside the UN command.

Despite these restraints, some members of the socialist and communist parties, who oppose any revival of Japanese militarism, triggered a violent melee in a lower-house committee on Nov. 27, when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) sought to pass the bill.

The brawl, seen widely on television, stunned a nation bred on the notion that Japan is both pacifist and a democracy. The new prime minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, was criticized by many LDP members for "mismanagement" of the bill, along with inaction on political reform and on settling a dispute with Washington over a rice-import ban.

After the bill finally won passage last week in the lower house, where the LDP holds a majority, it went to the upper house, which is dominated by the opposition. To win passage of the bill, the LDP leaders took advantage of the Pearl Harbor anniversary to offer a resolution - an official apology for starting the Pacific War - aimed at pleasing the United States. The resolution would also have served as a chip to bargain with Japan's anti-military opposition parties.

If the resolution had passed, the LDP might have won key support for its UN peacekeeping bill, and the opposition would have gained a long-sought admission from the LDP that Japan was responsible for the war.

The LDP eagerly sought the bill in time to deploy troops with a UN force going into Cambodia possibly next month, and also to counter US criticism that Japan was only willing to bankroll American troops in the Gulf war, and was not willing to send its own personnel.

But then in a Dec. 1 television interview, Bush strongly rejected an idea of offering an apology for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, saying the bombs ended the war and saved American lives. …