Subject: The Australian: Japan and E Timor to tie the knot

The Australian February 13, 2002

Japan and E Timor to tie the knot

By Stephen Lunn, Tokyo correspondent

JAPAN will officially recognise East Timor as a separate state and establish diplomatic relations as soon as possible after the breakaway territory attains full independence from Indonesia on May 20.

The new Japanese Foreign Minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi, said yesterday cabinet had agreed to press ahead with the necessary measures to recognise East Timor's sovereignty once the UN's transitional administration winds up in May.

"Japan, recognising that stability in East Timor is important for the stability of the Asia-Pacific region, believes it should recognise East Timor as a state promptly following its independence and establish diplomatic ties to secure friendly relations with it," Ms Kawaguchi said.

It was her first act as Foreign Minister, following the sacking of her volatile predecessor, Makiko Tanaka, a fortnight ago.

Japan is the biggest aid donor to the impoverished East Timor, having committed $US130 million ($255 million) since the territory's 1999 referendum, in which East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to sever ties with Indonesia.

In January, following a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao, Japan provided an additional $US6 million in emergency aid to help East Timorese refugees returning from neighbouring West Timor.

Japan will also provide its largest commitment of troops to a UN peacekeeping force in April, ahead of East Timor's presidential ballot. Almost 700 Japanese troops will serve for six months as peacekeepers in Dili and regional centres.

The troop commitment caused some angst in Japan last year. Critics were concerned it was a violation of the nation's constitution because forces were being committed to an action that did not directly threaten Japan.

But the events of September 11 and the subsequent Japanese contribution of "logistical support" to the US-led response in Afghanistan put debate to rest.


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