People's Daily Online
U.S. sees "positive step" in Japan's withdrawal from Iraq
A senior U.S. official on Tuesday described Japan's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq as a "positive step" and a "measure of the progress" being made in efforts to hand over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.
"The Japanese now are doing what we will all be doing over time. As the Iraqis stand up we can stand down," Stephen Hadley, who is President George W. Bush's national security advisor, told reporters aboard Air Force One as it took the president to a trip to Europe.
"It's an invitation, it is a measure of the progress, it is an example of what it means, Iraqis stand up, we can stand down," Hadley said as Bush headed to Vienna for a U.S.-European Union summit.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced earlier that Japan has decided to withdraw the Ground Self-Defense Force troops from Iraq.
The move is said to be a response to an announcement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said on Monday that Iraqi forces will take over the security task in July in Muthana Province, where the Japanese troops have been stationed.
Japan has deployed some 600 Ground Self-Defense Forces troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah, capital of Muthana Province, for a non-combat medical, reconstruction and humanitarian mission as part of the U.S.-led multinational force since early 2004.