Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Democratic Party of Japan has started considering revisions to the five principles for Japan’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations, including relaxing strict restrictions on the use of weapons by Self-Defense Force members, sources said.
After making a formal decision Tuesday to dispatch a Ground Self-Defense Force engineering unit to South Sudan for U.N. peacekeeping operations, the government began preparations to form the GSDF unit.
It plans to send the first batch of about 300 GSDF members to the African country as early as January.
Ahead of the dispatch, the DPJ has started looking into revising the U.N. Peacekeeping Activities Cooperation Law at a joint panel meeting of the Foreign and Defense ministries, with an aim to relax the use of weapons by the SDF personnel on PKO missions, according to the sources.
The ruling party plans to submit a bill to amend the law to an ordinary Diet session next year, the sources said.
Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa held a meeting of the ministry’s top brass Tuesday and instructed them to procure heavy machines and make other preparations for the GSDF dispatch to South Sudan.
Recent clashes in the northern part of the civil war-torn country between government forces and armed rebels have left many people dead.
Although the Japanese government has viewed the security situation in Juba, the country’s capital where the GSDF unit is to be based, as relatively stable, some observers have voiced concerns over local security.
As a result, the DPJ is considering the law revisions to ensure the safety of the GSDF members and enable them to fulfill their duties as smoothly as possible, the sources said.
The five principles currently governing Japan’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations do not allow SDF members to use weapons except for self-defense or emergency evacuations. Even if they were attacked by local rebels, they are not authorized to fire even warning shots. They are also prohibited from backing up other countries’ troops that come under attack.
By revising the law, the government and the ruling party intend to enable SDF members to use weapons in the course of their duties and make Japan’s rules on the use of weapons closer to international standards.
Some critics have argued another PKO principle that requires a ceasefire agreement among parties to a conflict as a condition for an SDF dispatch is out of touch with reality because parties involved in conflict are often difficult to identify.
Some observers have proposed the expression be changed to « major parties, » the sources said.