By Kyoji Yanagisawa, former Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary
The reasons Prime Minister Abe gave for the Self-Defense Forces’ withdrawal from South Sudan are full of contradictions.
Up until now, the government had insisted that the local security situation presented no concern. However, in his explanation, the prime minister counted as a reason for the withdrawal the better security ensured by the arrival of additional UN troops. This suggests there had been a security concern prior to their arrival.
The prime minister also mentioned the SDF units’ accomplishment in building facilities and infrastructure such as roads. But it is doubtful that the troops have been able to do much since the armed conflict that flared up last July. They must have been confined to their camps much of the time since then, due to the deteriorating security environment. If they were not able to fully perform their mission, the Japanese government could have decided to withdraw the troops last summer.
Furthermore, we must wonder what reasons he had for allowing additional missions such as rushing to the rescue and jointly defending camps. This squarely runs counter to the government’s explanation at the time which was that “Japan must be able to perform missions up to global-standards.”
With such contradictory reasons given for the withdrawal, the troops can’t come home holding their heads high and with a feeling of satisfaction. We can’t learn anything from the experience in South Sudan if we are stuck in this sort of word game. The government should face the reality in order to avoid making this experience a mere tool for domestic political fighting.