The government plans to add “rushing to the aid of foreign troops” as an additional mission of the Ground-Self Defense Force (GSDF) units, which are scheduled to deploy to South Sudan in November to participate in the UN peacekeeping operations (PKO). The Defense Ministry intends to accelerate preparation for the deployment by providing the replacement units with the necessary training for the new mission. However, there are outstanding issues yet to be solved.
On Aug. 15, Defense Minister Inada received a briefing on South Sudan’s current situation in Djibouti, Africa, from the GSDF’s on-site vice unit commander Hiroyuki Hiratsuka, who is currently deployed to South Sudan. Keeping in mind armed conflicts that took place in early July in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, Inada asked the vice commander detailed questions.
Showing videos of tanks taken outside the camp when the situation was worsening, the vice commander described the heightened tension around the camp at that time to the minister. “Currently, the situation is stable,” said Hiratsuka. “We’ve secured local roads and there is no present danger.”
About 350 troops of the GSDF engineering units currently deployed to South Sudan as part of the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) are engaged in road maintenance and facilities construction. Although the situation is still volatile, the Japanese government maintains a stance that “the five principles of participating in the PKO are still being satisfied,” according to Inada. “When the situation deteriorates, cooperation among participating nations is all the more necessary, including rushing to the aid of foreign troops,” said a Defense Ministry official.
The replacement GSDF units will start training for the new mission soon. The troops will practice a series of procedures for firing warning shots based on scenarios simulating actual cases, as well as review the limits on firearm use. Some GSDF members say, “Such training will require at least six months.” The replacement units will reportedly have to complete training at an accelerated pace. (Abridged)