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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #210: April 22, 2004

Japan says shell fired near Dutch camp in Iraq

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan says shell fired near Dutch camp in Iraq"
Reuters (Tokyo)

Related Article:
"Iraqi shot at Dutch security checkpoint"
Expatica (Amsterdam)


The article reports a shell struck the Dutch military camp near Samawa where Japan's SDF is involved in reconstruction and humanitarian work. The related article above reports a somewhat similar incident by a Dutch media which, understandably, makes no reference to Japan.

It is perhaps little known to Dutch people that Japanese people have a somewhat special feeling toward the Netherlands. Special in the sense of familiarity and even affection.

It dates back to the days of Tokugawa shogunate, when, in 1633, shogun Iemitsu forbade traveling abroad and almost completely isolated Japan, and in 1639 reduced the contacts to the outside world to very limited trade relations with China and the Netherlands through the port of Nagasaki. In addition, all foreign books were banned except in the small area in Nagasaki, for the purpose of maintaining minimal number of translators needed. So for eager Japanese scholars, studying the Dutch language and then obtaining access to Dutch books was the only realistic means to learn affairs and events of the outside world. Indeed, it was the sustained work of those scholars which as a result enabled Japan to transform into a modern state through Meiji Restoration toward the end of 19th century.

The relationship between the two countries had decreased its significance, however, after the Restoration. Japan became busy coping with aggressive attitudes of imperialistic states at the time, lead by the UK and followed by other Europeans, with the US quickly catching up. During the while, Japan was turning itself into an imperialistic force seeking power over other parts of Asia, including those regions already controlled by other western powers.

In 1942, Japan made inroads into Indonesia, at the time occupied by Dutch military forces. It took 8 days of fighting until the Dutch surrendered, and Japan governed the land until the end of WWII. Immediate after the cease-fire of WWII, on August 17, 1945, Indonesia declared independence which infuriated the UK and the Netherlands. The two countries sent their troops igniting a full-fledged war, which ended in 1949 by Indonesia acquiring independence.

There still are former soldiers in the Netherlands, similar as in the UK, who fought against Japanese forces at the time, and who still denounce Japan at every occasion. They, too, are victims of war and thus needs to be sympathized, but Japanese people now can only sense certain awkwardness in seeing such protest.

The Japanese SDF in Iraq have seemingly begun to be recognized as intended. A number of foreign, and major, media began to call the SDF "non-combat troops" and their task "non-combat mission" of construction and humanitarian work. In fact, their safety, in the military sense, is currently attended to by the Dutch troops stationed there. Japanese people know it well, thus the article introduced above. Perhaps Japanese people should be more thankful, and Dutch people more proud, of a de-facto collaborating effort to rebuild much needed infrastructure in Iraq.

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