Japan in Final Preparations to Send Peacekeepers to South Sudan As Part of Renewed UN Mandate

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Japan is making final arrangements to assign the Self-Defense Forces controversial new missions when a new batch of troops take part in U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan from November, government sources said Thursday.

The new assignments are part of the expanded role for the SDF under Japan’s new security legislation, which has given personnel more leeway in their highly restricted use of weapons during U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Ground Self-Defense Force personnel have so far been sent to the African country to build infrastructure, but the government plans to give them two additional assignments — going to the aid of U.N. personnel and others under attack by armed groups and jointly defending U.N. peacekeeper camps with troops from other nations.

As the current deployment period will end Oct. 31, Cabinet approval will first be sought to extend GSDF participation in the U.N. mission by five months through March. The approval is expected as early as Tuesday.

Cabinet approval will then be sought for the new assignments, possibly in mid-November, before the next batch of GSDF troops are sent to South Sudan, the sources said.

A unit composed mainly of members of the GSDF’s 5th Infantry Regiment, based in the city of Aomori, is set to take over from the 350-member engineer unit currently deployed for the U.N. mission called UNMISS.

Amid lingering concern over the security situation in the African country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, the Japanese government is likely to limit the GSDF’s new assignments to the capital Juba and nearby areas, the sources said.

While major fighting erupted in Juba in July between South Sudan government troops and rebel forces despite a peace deal reached in 2015, the Japanese government has maintained that the situation in the capital, where the GSDF personnel are stationed, is now relatively calm.

Source: Japan Times