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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 May 24 - 30  > Withdrawal of all GSDF personnel from South Sudan completed
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2017 May 24 - 30 [POLITICS]

Withdrawal of all GSDF personnel from South Sudan completed

May 28, 2017
The last remaining 40 members of the Ground Self-Defense Forces who had been deployed for the UN PKO mission in South Sudan returned to Japan on May 27, putting a halt to the 25-year-long Japan’s participation in PKOs.

Vice Defense Minister Wakamiya Kenji at a ceremony in Aomori held to welcome the return of all the dispatched personnel said, “You have bravely completed prestigious tasks with high morale (in South Sudan).” However, the reality is that Japan had no choice but to put its troops out of South Sudan.

In1992, before sending the SDF to Cambodia for the first time on a PKO assignment, the government set out the so-called five PKO principles as preconditions, including “an agreement of ceasefire between parties concerned in conflict”, for dispatching SDF units abroad. Their primary duty was road repair under the guise of making an “international contribution”.

South Sudan, after its independence in July 2011, constantly had armed conflicts between the government force and anti-government forces. In December 2013 and in July last year, a major battle took place in the South Sudanese capital of Juba where the SDF camp was located. Shooting continued near the camp.

The SDF unit in Juba described the situation as a “battle” in its daily reports. However, the government of Japan kept the local SDF reports secret and repeatedly insisted in the Diet, “There is no battle taking place.”

The serious situation in South Sudan showed no signs of ending. Professor at Obirin University Kato Akira, a former member of the Defense Ministry’s National Institute for Defense Studies, pointed out, “More than half the dispatched SDF personnel ended up returning home without stepping one foot out of the camp.”

In fact, the troops had to refrain from working outside their camp for months after the major gunfight in July.

What is serious is that the Abe government assigned the new duty dubbed “kaketsuke-keigo” to the SDF unit in Juba based on the national security legislation. Vice Defense Minister Wakamiya at the welcome-home ceremony hinted at taking on this risky duty in future PKOs.

The Abe regime is already discussing where it will dispatch the SDF next. Cyprus and Lebanon are, reportedly, candidates. The UN needs at present are, however, “protection of local residents” in Africa.

During a “kaketsuke-keigo” mission, SDF personnel may have to kill or be killed abroad for the first time in postwar history of Japan.

* * *

Imai Takaki of the Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC), who is responsible for emergency assistance in South Sudan, said in an Akahata interview, “International cooperation is not simply sending SDF units. Japan can contribute in the civilian sector such as working to foster human resources and establishing local administrative offices.” He stated that Japan should consider non-military options in future involvement in PKOs.

Past related article:
> 1st GSDF group returns to Japan from UN PKO in South Sudan [April 20, 2017]
> GSDF concealed daily reports on South Sudan PKO [March 17, 2017]
> SDF is in the most dangerous area in Juba: volunteer leader in South Sudan [February 22, 2017]
> Concealed SDF reports imply need for withdrawal from South Sudan [February 8, 2017]
> Abe gov’t imposes unconstitutional new duties on SDF dispatched to South Sudan PKO [November 16, 2016]

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