Japan’s Defense Ministry is making final arrangements to allow Ground Self-Defense Force troops to be sent to South Sudan, possibly in mid-November, to conduct a fresh mission in a limited area under new security laws, a government source said Sunday.
The troops would engage in the new mission, focusing on rescuing U.N. staff and other civilians if they are attacked, only in the relatively safe southern region of the African country, where the GSDF has set up its camp for U.N. peacekeeping operations, the source said.
The new security legislation that came into force in March has no stipulation regarding geographical limitations. By specifying where the troops can carry out the fresh mission, the ministry is apparently aiming to ensure the safety of GSDF members.
The new mission has become possible as criteria for weapons use by the Self-Defense Forces during U.N. peacekeeping operations was eased under the new laws.
With criticism lingering that the change erodes Japan’s pacifist Constitution and could draw SDF troops into full-fledged combat, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said last week that the SDF plans to begin training personnel for the fresh mission.
In the northern area of South Sudan, battles between government forces and rebels have continued.
The southern region of the nation, including the capital Juba, had been considered relatively safe, but large-scale combat between followers of President Salva Kiir and antigovernment forces took place in July, prompting the GSDF to suspend operations.
As both sides issued a cease-fire order, the GSDF resumed its activities earlier this month, the Japanese government said.
A GSDF unit is scheduled to be newly dispatched to the U.N. mission in South Sudan, as the current operation plan will expire at the end of October.