Japan eyes backing possible U.S. military intervention in Syria

Japan is arranging for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to express support in the event the United States launches a military intervention against Syria, government sources said Saturday.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed in phone talks Saturday night that the two countries will closely cooperate amid allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians.

Kerry briefed Kishida on the U.S. stance of considering launching military action based on intelligence reports.

"I understand President (Barack) Obama has yet to make a final decision on military action," Kishida told reporters after the talks.

In the talks, Kishida said he reiterated that the use of chemical weapons is unforgivable from a humanitarian standpoint and President Bashar al-Assad's government is responsible for the turmoil in Syria, adding Kerry expressed appreciation for Japan's stance.

The Japanese government is considering issuing a statement for Abe to express support for U.S. military action if any, but is carefully examining U.S. intelligence offered in providing reasons for the Japanese stance, the sources said.

Tokyo will also offer additional aid for refugees whose number is expected to surge if the U.S. military conducts a strike against the Assad regime.

"There is no option (for Japan) not to support it," one government source said. A senior official separately said, "We just have to get in line with the United States."

Abe's Cabinet ministers agreed at a meeting Friday that the issue of chemical weapons is also of concern to Japan as neighboring countries such as North Korea are suspected of possessing such weapons, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said.

When the Iraq war began in March 2003, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi expressed support at an impromptu press conference, but a statement is being arranged this time for Abe as the United States is considering a limited strike, the sources said.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters at the White House on Friday that his administration was "looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act," but has yet to make a final decision on how to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons which Washington says killed at least 1,429 people, including 426 children.