Subject: Japan Mulls Sending Coast Guard To East Timor: Minister

Japan Mulls Sending Coast Guard To East Timor: Minister

TOKYO, Feb. 12 (AFP)--Japan is considering sending coast guard personnel to East Timor to help maintain order after rebels tried to assassinate the country's leaders, a cabinet minister said Tuesday.

Japan, despite its pacifist constitution, sent peacekeepers to East Timor after the country achieved independence from Indonesia in 2002 following a bloody conflict.

Japan, which had already been studying a coast guard mission to East Timor, is looking at the possibility more closely in the wake of Monday's assassination bid, Transport Minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba said.

"We should study proactively if there are tasks that the Japan Coast Guard can do," said the minister, who is in charge of the coast guard.

"We will assess what they expect us to do if we send coast guard personnel," he added.

Australia said it was sending 340 soldiers and police as reinforcements to quell unrest in East Timor after the attacks, in which President Jose Ramos-Horta was shot and seriously wounded.

Japan strongly condemned the attack on Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who was unhurt, as "an attempt through violence to hinder the country from peace and nation-building." "Japan will continue providing as much support as it can," the foreign ministry said in a statement late Monday.

Tokyo has been a major financial supporter to East Timor and has sent election monitoring teams to the country, which was occupied by imperial Japan during World War II.

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