Japan PM thanks Kuwait for active role, cooperation in Iraqi mission

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and other leaders have thanked the Kuwaiti leadership and people for their constructive role and cooperation with Japan in executing its humanitarian mission in Iraq since 2004.
In their speeches at a welcome-home ceremony on Wednesday in Komaki Air Base, central Japan, to mark completion of the Air Self-Defense Force's (ASDF) nearly five-year noncombat airlift mission, Aso and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada expressed gratitude for Kuwait, the embassy told Kuwait News Agency .
Kuwaiti Charge d'Affaires Khalid Al-Mutairi attended the ceremony as a main guest, along with his Iraqi and American counterparts.
In his talks with Al-Mutairi before the celebration, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone also extended his gratitude for all the strategic cooperation and hospitality Kuwait had extended to Japanese troops who had based in Kuwait, according to the embassy.
Since March 2004, about 200 ASDF personnel and three C-130 transport planes had been stationed at Ali Al-Salem Air Base and engaged in transporting UN personnel and supplies to Iraq's airports.
On his part, Al-Mutairi conveyed to Nakasone the Kuwaiti leadership's appreciation and satisfaction with the role and efforts Japan had made to help Iraq repave its way toward democracy and progress.
Other key officials also conveyed the same message to Al-Mutairi directly during the ceremony.
Upon welcoming returning troops, Al-Mutairi expressed Kuwait's pleasure to have received them on its soil, while soldiers showed their gratitude for the hospitality Kuwait had provided them with.
About 230 ASDF personnel and family members gathered for Wednesday's event, which was also attended by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and a number of Japanese civil, parliamentary and military officials.
Meantime, Aso and Hamada reaffirmed Japan's continued support to Iraq even after the withdrawal of its forces through economic, political and technical channels, saying, "We will further promote our efforts in cooperation with UN and the international community so that peace, stability, and progress become a reality in Iraq and the whole Middle East region." The air unit has returned from Kuwait since last week after ending its mission on December 12. Some 130 troops will remain in Kuwait for a backlog, and the withdrawal is expected to be completed by the end of March.
The Japanese government ordered the ASDF to pull out of the region last month, citing the improved security situation there. During its deployment, the ASDF had transported around 673 tons of materials and about 46,500 personnel in 821 separate airlifts without a single accident.