Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday defended Japan’s provision of ammunition to U.N. peacekeeping forces in South Sudan as part of its “proactive” contribution to world peace and as the bloodshed in the new North African nation intensifies.
The supply late Monday of 10,000 bullets to the South Korean military engaged in an evacuation mission in South Sudan was criticized by opposition parties, which said the government had made the action exceptional to the country’s self-imposed ban on arms exports without sufficient discussion.
“We made the move in accordance with our proactive pacifism,” Abe told a gathering of executives from his Liberal Democratic Party. “If we had refused, it would have led to international criticism” of Japan.
“It is because of the serious deterioration in the situation” in South Sudan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.
On Monday night, Suga released an emergency statement on the exceptional supply of ammunition that cited urgency and humanitarian needs. It is Japan’s first such provision of ammunition to a foreign military.
Continued fighting in South Sudan, where the central government has reportedly lost control of the capital of a key oil-producing state, has raised fears of a full-scale civil war.
Japan received requests for the ammunition Sunday from both the United Nations and the South Korean government, Suga said.
South Korean troops were guarding U.N. facilities in eastern South Sudan, according to the Defense Ministry, which cited the United Nations on Monday as saying the troops and refugees would be in danger without Japan’s support.
Armed militias were approaching U.N. facilities sheltering refugees, the ministry said. Apart from the South Koreans, no other troops besides a Ground Self-Defense Force unit were known to be holding an inventory of bullets for type-89 5.56 mm rifles.
South Korea’s defense ministry acknowledged Tuesday that the nation’s troops in South Sudan had “temporarily borrowed (the bullets) in order to secure reserves,” denying the troops are running out of ammunition.
“We received 10,000 bullets from Japan yesterday,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a press briefing. “Basically our Hanbit troops have sufficient bullets, but we secured a necessary supplement in preparation for a situation that may occur repeatedly,” he said, using the name for the South Korean troops in South Sudan.
Opposition parties expressed concern that Abe’s government might neglect certain domestic rules in attempting to win a firmer standing in the international arena.