TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan is planning to send members of the Self-Defense Forces to the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan but will refrain from dispatching an SDF engineering unit to the new African country for the time being, government sources said Tuesday.
In his meeting with Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa earlier in the day, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon made a renewed request for the dispatch of the Ground Self-Defense Force's engineering unit to South Sudan, which gained independence last month.
But the defense minister suggested it would be difficult for Japan to send SDF engineers for the time being, referring to the fact that the SDF is currently involved in recovery operations following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and also in a U.N. mission in Haiti, which was hit by a massive earthquake in January last year, a Japanese official said.
Tokyo's policy on the SDF dispatch to South Sudan is also believed to have been influenced by poor security conditions in the African country and the instability of the Japanese government led by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has expressed his readiness to quit, observers said.
Japan has sent two SDF officers to participate in the U.N. Mission in Sudan in rotation since 2008, with the personnel taking charge of managing logistics and a database on security information at the mission headquarters.
With the independence of South Sudan on July 9, UNMIS wound up its operations and a successor mission -- the U.N. Mission in South Sudan -- was established by the U.N. Security Council.
Tokyo will consult with the United Nations on the number of SDF officers to be dispatched to the UNMISS headquarters in South Sudan's capital Juba and their duties, according to the government sources.
At present, Japan is taking part in U.N. peacekeeping operations in the Golan Heights, Haiti, East Timor and Sudan. The two SDF officers will remain in Sudan until late September to deal with tasks related to the mission's withdrawal, Japanese officials said.
(Mainichi Japan) August 10, 2011
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