Self-Defense Forces troops taking part in U.N. peacekeeping operations in the Golan Heights started leaving for home on Saturday, wrapping up a mission that lasted nearly 17 years.
After the withdrawal, prompted by the rapidly worsening security situation in Syria, the SDF mission in South Sudan will be the only sign that Japan is still involved in U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping operations overseas.
There are concerns in the Japanese government that the participation may tail off.
Of the three command officers and 44 transportation personnel who took part in the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights, 33 flew back to Japan from Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel on Saturday. The remainder will pull out by the end of January at the earliest.
Launched after the 1973 Yom Kippur war, UNDOF has monitored the ceasefire between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights located between the two countries.
By the law on cooperation in U.N. peacekeeping operations abroad, SDF personnel were sent to UNDOF in February 1996 to transport supplies to peacekeeping troops.