Japanese take look at Karbala

13 Jul 2003 | Army Spc. Benjamin R. Kibbey

The special advisor to the prime minister of Japan, along with other Japanese officials, came to a city council meeting July 13 to gather information regarding medical issues in Iraq.

The visit by the delegation, comprised mostly of officials from the Japanese Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, involved information sharing amongst the Japanese, U.S. forces and Karbala's city council, said Tomo Uyama, the economics chief for the delegation.

"We were in Baghdad for several days looking into the medical situation with some Egyptian medical doctors," he said.  "We are here to look into a joint medical mission with the Egyptians, and looked at several hospitals in Baghdad."

The Japanese delegates decided that on their return trip to Cairo, they would tour some southern Iraqi cities as well.

"On the way home, it is a good opportunity to view some of the important cities in the south," Uyama said.  "We are here to exchange views with the council people.  It's a good opportunity for the Japanese delegation to visit here."

Yukio Okamoto, the special advisor to the prime minister of Japan, told the coalition and council members, that the Japanese would be sending back a representative to provide assistance. For the last few months, coalition forces have been working to provide more medical supplies and hospital upgrades in southern Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Whatever need you have, I think (the representative) can help you," Okamoto said. "He has been helping many hospitals and medical in Iraq," he said.

The Japanese are concerned about security, as they will be bringing a humanitarian force and will have no military presence, said Lt. Col. Brice Leslie, an Army reservist from West Brookfield, Mass., who serves with the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade of Philadelphia, Pa.

"They had security concerns about whether the Iranians had made any significant inroads here," he said.

Such concerns were laid to rest as Okamoto sat and discussed a variety of issues with the city council and U.S. forces.

Though the primary area of concern to the Japanese is a joint medical mission with the Egyptians, they will also examine such topical issues as Iraq's industrial base, which was also broached at the meeting.

"We participated in discussions with them, and shared information about the needs of different ministries within Karbala, and provided security," said Lt. Col. Matthew A. Lopez, 39, from Naperville, Ill., the military governor of Karbala province and commander of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

In the end, the discussions left the Americans with a positive outlook.

"I think it was a very friendly meeting, and provided a lot of promise to support the economic situation in Karbala, " Lopez said.