Japan voices support for U.S.-led strikes against Syria


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday that Japan supports the decision by the United States, Britain and France to launch precision strikes on Syria targeting sites associated with the Middle Eastern country's chemical weapons capabilities.

"We support the resolve of the United States, Britain and France not to allow the use of chemical weapons," Abe told reporters in Osaka. "We understand this action to be a measure taken to prevent the situation worsening further."

The government held a meeting of the National Security Council later in the day.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the government is gathering information on the strikes. "People or countries using chemical weapons must be punished," Kono said during a speech in western Japan.

A senior Foreign Ministry official said the response to the Syria conflict is likely to be an important topic at a summit in Florida next week between Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump has explicitly said Russia, a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's civil war, is responsible for the deaths of civilians in the alleged chemical attack on April 7 on a rebel-held town near Damascus.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the situation in Syria "is worrying to the international community, including Russia."

He told reporters at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo that Japan will analyze what kind of impact the worsening of relations between the United States and Russia could have on the situation in North Korea.

Japan's support for the "resolve" behind the reasoning for the strikes echoes its response to a U.S. air strike on a Syrian airbase in April last year in retaliation for another alleged chemical attack.

"If we can't determine who used (the chemical weapons), it's difficult to support the strikes themselves," a government source said.

Ahead of the latest strikes, Japanese government sources said Japan would support Trump's "resolve" to prevent the use of chemical weapons instead of expressing support for the air strikes themselves in order to preserve relations with Russia.

Japan is eager to make progress on its territorial claim to a chain of Russia-held islands which has dragged on for decades. Abe hopes to advance the issue in a summit in Russia next month with President Vladimir Putin.


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