SEOUL – The South Korean Defense Ministry said Friday that ammunition provided by Japan via the United Nations to South Korean troops taking part in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in strife-torn South Sudan will soon be sent back.
“We will return the (Japanese) ammunition to the U.N. as soon as additional military supplies arrive,” Col. Wi Yong-seop, deputy ministry spokesman, told a briefing, according to Yonhap News Agency.
Wi added the additional supplies are currently on their way to the South Korean peacekeepers’ base camp.
The announcement followed criticism of the South Korean government domestically for its decision earlier this week to borrow 10,000 rounds of ammunition from Japan for the peacekeepers in the event its troops come under fire in the African nation.
Concerns have been raised in the South Korean media that Japan’s supply of ammunition could be interpreted as tacit consent of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s move to expand the role of the Self-Defense Forces.
Japan has drawn criticism in South Korea for its utilization of the ammunition provision to advance Abe’s policy of “proactive pacifism.”
Abe has expressed his eagerness to revise the Constitution, which limits overseas activities by the SDF, and formally grant the forces full military status, so Japan can act more freely abroad alongside its allies, including the U.S.
Japan claims it received a direct urgent request to provide the ammunition from both the U.N. and South Korea, while Seoul insists it made a formal request for additional ammunition through the world body and only “borrowed” the bullets to secure supplies.
Wi also said Abe’s visit Thursday to Yasukuni Shrine will negatively affect military ties between the two nations.