Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday congratulated Self-Defense Forces personnel involved in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Israeli-held Golan Heights during a ceremony at the Defense Ministry.
The SDF began pulling its 47 soldiers out of the area in late December after being ordered to withdraw due to worsening security conditions caused by Syria’s civil war.
“You, having honorably completed the mission in an environment different from Japan’s, represent our country and make us proud,” Abe said while addressing the soldiers.
During its 17-year stint with the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, the SDF performed transportation and other operations. It was the longest U.N. peacekeeping operation involving Japanese troops.
In his address, Abe also mentioned China’s repeated incursions into Japanese waters and airspace around the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, also claimed by Beijing, in the East China Sea.
“I will lead the way in resolutely protecting our citizens, land, territorial waters and airspace,” Abe said, pledging to strengthen the SDF.
Allow rescues: Onodera
The laws governing the Self-Defense Forces must be revised to make it easier to rescue Japanese in life-threatening situations abroad, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera says.
Japan cannot dispatch SDF troops overseas unless their safety is guaranteed. Even if they do go abroad, weapons use and the transportation of Japanese in vehicles are strictly regulated.
During a TV interview Saturday as the Algerian hostage crisis was unfolding, Onodera said measures to ease those restrictions should be studied. Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers are expected to look at drafting a bill to revise the SDF law, a senior Defense Ministry official said.
About 10 Japanese were briefly taken prisoner last week by an al-Qaida-linked group of Islamists in Algeria, where government forces brutally put an end to the bloody raid without even pausing for negotiations.