TOKYO -- Japan doubled yesterday its $1 billion pledge to forces confronting Iraq in the Persian Gulf and confirmed reports that it will give $2 billion to countries hurt by the United Nations embargo.
The announcement, made after a Cabinet meeting, was accompanied by sober-faced denials that the additional $1 billion for the American-led force was a response to pressure from the United States.
But spokesman Misoji Sakamoto acknowledged that little was yet known about how or when the additional $1 billion would be used, one of several signs that the decision was reached hurriedly after a week of increasingly intense attacks on Japan in Congress.
Hours later, the Foreign Ministry announced that a 17-member medical team, headed by a former diplomat to Saudi Arabia, would leave for the Middle East Tuesday, the first step toward meeting an Aug. 30 promise to put up to 100 doctors and nurses on the ground in the region.
U.S. Ambassador Michael H. Armacost, who has publicly pressed hard for the Japanese to do more than the August pledge of $1 billion in mainly logistical help, praised the Cabinet announcement as "generous economic assistance to countries in the Middle East whose economies are being seriously affected."
"This decision clearly demonstrates that Japan is a full partner in the ongoing efforts of the international community to work toward a just and peaceful resolution of the crisis," his statement said.
Complaints in Washington had grown in intensity since last Friday, when Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady was unable to report anything concrete after coming here as part of President Bush's campaign to extract more support from U.S. allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Mr. Brady and Secretary of State James A. Baker III had been sent on separate itineraries to seek $28 billion in help, partly for the multinational force and partly to help governments economically hurt by honoring the embargo against Iraq.
By midweek, senators were using words such as "greed and avarice" (Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y.) and "contemptible tokenism" (John McCain, R-Ariz.) to describe Japan's August decision. Each house of Congress passed its own version of legislation that singled out Japan in seeking to penalize allies that failed to satisfy U.S. demands for help.