TOKYO, JAN. 4 -- Japan's lone aid team in Saudi Arabia has returned home, and officials were unsure today whether the government would send more.
The seven doctors and nurses who made up Japan's second medical team all had left by Dec. 28, the Foreign Ministry said today, ending a mission plagued by too few volunteers and what critics say is the Japanese people's unwillingness to consider Iraq's occupation of Kuwait their problem.
Both missions drew only a total of two dozen volunteers. Two ministry officials who accompanied the second team are the only Japanese personnel still among the more than half-million U.S.-led troops massed in the Persian Gulf region.
Critics say Japan's inability to put together a 100-member medical team as promised in September reflects an insular mentality that has undercut government efforts to do more than send $4 billion to help pay for the troop deployment and aid poor states in the area that have suffered from boycotting Iraq.
"We are still not sure whether we really can . . . make a meaningful contribution," said a Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said another medical mission was possible but "has not been worked out yet."
In a poll last month, 62 percent of Japanese questioned opposed sending anything more than financial aid to the gulf.