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Japan extends dispatch of troops to UN mission in S. Sudan

May 20, 2018 (TOKYO) - The Japanese government on Friday announced it had extended the dispatch of four Self-Defense Forces members to the headquarters of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) until May 31 2019.

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Japanese peacekeepers arrive at the Juba airport to participate in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in South Sudan’s capital Juba, on November 21, 2016. (Reuters/Jok Solomun Photo)

Japan ended its five-year deployment of Ground Self-Defense Force civil engineering units to the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, or UNMISS, in 2017. But it has kept SDF members stationed at UNMISS headquarters since 2011.

“We believe the current role of the SDF members is very important and is praised internationally,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, told Japan Times, adding that Japan will continue to participate actively in international peacekeeping operations.

SDF activities overseas have reportedly been restricted under Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has expanded the role of the SDF abroad through security legislation that took effect in 2016, but sending troops to areas where they could get drawn into fighting remains controversial.

Currently, No SDF unit is serving in active UN missions, following the withdrawal of GSDF troops from war-hit South Sudan in May last year.

Japanese peacekeepers were ordered to carry weapons in South Sudan in July 2016 following the outbreak of fierce fighting in the country’s capital, Juba where More than 270 people were killed in clashes between South Sudanese government forces and rebels loyal to Riek Machar.

In March this year, it was reported that SDF officers committed suicide after returning home from peacekeeping in South Sudan.

A total of 3,943 SDF officers reportedly participated in the mission form November 2011 and none is said to have died in the operations.

(ST)