NEW YORK – The head of the United Nations Department of Field Support has said he welcomes Tokyo’s efforts to enhance the security of peacekeepers on missions abroad. Former Indian diplomat Atul Khare, who assumed the U.N. role last year, was speaking ahead of a visit to Japan that began Monday.
“I hope that the efforts by Japan to improve the security of its own peacekeepers and also contribute to the improvement in the security of peacekeepers from other countries . . . (will be) a very good step forward,” he told Kyodo News.
He said Japan has expertise that is needed in noncombat situations, too.
Khare’s trip comes shortly before controversial security legislation takes effect in March expanding the range of roles Self-Defense Forces troops can engage in overseas. The reforms were heavily pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
That legislation would allow the Self-Defense Forces to deploy armed troops to help U.N. peacekeeping personnel — individuals who are often in harm’s way. There have been at least 100 deaths from attacks by militants in each of the past eight years.
Japan is currently involved in a peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, where several hundred members of an engineering unit have been building up infrastructure since 2012.
Previously, troops have been dispatched to Cambodia, Mozambique, Syria’s Golan Heights and East Timor.
Khare’s visit also coincides with the 60th anniversary of Japan’s membership of the U.N. and marks its 11th stint on the Security Council — a body tasked with maintaining international peace and security.
“Japan as a member of the Security Council can play a very effective role,” he said. “We need to make sure that the operations are deployed at the right time with the right expertise for the right duration, so they can leave within a reasonable period of time and leave that country more peaceful.”
Khare worked closely in East Timor with many Japanese as the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general.
He stressed the importance of the “triangular partnership” now taking place between Japan, his department and African nations that contribute troops through engineering training programs.
The first, six-week phase of the training program involved 11 Japanese trainers in Nairobi showing engineers from African countries how to use heavy earth-moving equipment such as bulldozers.
A second phase under consideration for June could take place elsewhere on the continent.
Currently, there are some 120,000 troops engaged in 16 U.N. peacekeeping missions around the globe, but Khare said there is a lack of heavy engineering capacity, and that is where Japan may be able to help.
The country’s contribution in South Sudan, where Japanese troops have helped to build roads, is one such example. Peacekeepers must rely on air and river transport given the lack of roads in the huge country, and Khare said this is a problem.
“I think heavy engineering and construction is a very, very major activity,” he said, noting that it means the construction of airstrips as well as the building of camps, offices and accommodation.
Beyond helping to train military engineers, more police would be welcomed on missions, he said, citing Japan’s dispatch of police to East Timor.
“I would encourage them to consider it again in an appropriate climate and in an appropriate country,” he said. “We need to make sure that the world is a better place in order to improve security for everybody, because in this globalized world, insecurity of one is also the insecurity of the other.”
Khare leaves Japan on Friday.