Japanese troops will participate in rescue missions in South Sudan

Japanese troops will participate in rescue missions in South SudanJapan on Tuesday approved a plan for its troops in South Sudan on UN peacekeeping operations to conduct rescue missions, Reuters reported.

The new mandate, which will apply to troops to be dispatched to South Sudan from November 20, is in line with security legislation enacted last year to expand the overseas role of Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

"South Sudan cannot assure its peace and stability on its own and for that very reason, a UN peacekeeping operation is being conducted," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

"The SDF ... is carrying out activities that only it can do in a tough environment," he added.

The Japanese troops are in South Sudan primarily to help build infrastructure in the war-torn country, but under the new mission will be allowed to respond to urgent calls from UN staff and non-governmental organization (NGO) personnel. Defence Minister Tomomi Inada has said the government does not envision Japanese troops rescuing other foreign troops.

The government also plans to assign the troops another new role made possible by the new legislation, to defend UN peacekeepers' camps jointly with troops from other nations.

Opponents of the move fear the mission will ensnare Japanese troops in fighting for the first time since World War Two. Other critics say the deployment violates conditions for peacekeeping operations set in line with Japan's pacifist constitution.
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