The Cabinet gave its blessing Tuesday to an extension of the Self-Defense Forces’ peacekeeping mission in South Sudan by eight months until the end of October.
The move was in line with the U.N. Security Council’s decision to extend the mandate of the United Nation’s mission in South Sudan until July 31. If the mission wraps up at the end of July, SDF personnel will spend the three months through October preparing to withdraw.
“It is an important task for the international community to build stability and peace in South Sudan. It is significant to continue to cooperate with other countries and provide the necessary support,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a news conference.
The decision comes ahead of the new security legislation taking effect in March.
Under the legislation, the government will be able to expand the scope of SDF missions, such as going to the aid of allied countries and U.N. staff under attack.
The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, plans to postpone assigning new roles to the SDF until next fall or later, apparently to prevent controversy over the matter from affecting the Upper House election this summer.
“SDF personnel need to do training and enhance their capability in a bid to fulfill their duty,” Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said at a separate news conference. “We will deliberate (over it) including whether (the new roles) are required or not.”
SDF troops were first deployed to South Sudan in 2012 for the U.N. peacekeeping mission called UNMISS to help develop infrastructure after the African country gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Since late 2013, the new country has been mired in a conflict between government forces and rebels.