The government is thinking of dispatching Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Lebanon to offer logistics support to the U.N. Interim Force there monitoring a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah militants, government sources have said.
A ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israeli troops in southern Lebanon went into effect Aug. 14 following the passage of an earlier U.N. resolution urging an end to the hostilities.
It remains uncertain, though, whether Japan will give the go-ahead for the deployment, given strong concerns in the government that fighting may erupt again in southern Lebanon.
The final say is expected to be left to the new Japanese government that will be formed later this month after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi steps down, the sources said.
The fighting erupted July 12 when Hezbollah militants abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed three others in a cross-border raid.
The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution Aug. 11 that calls for a “full cessation of hostilities” between Hezbollah and Israel — specifically demanding that Hezbollah end its attacks. It also says Israel should cease its “offensive military operations.”
The ceasefire came into effect a few days later, and both parties basically accepted the resolution.
With the establishment of a ceasefire and other conditions under the five-point principle Japan stipulates for engaging in peacekeeping missions, the government has begun considering a GSDF deployment in view of the 1992 Japanese law governing participation in U.N.-led peacekeeping operations.
Japan has sent missions under the U.N. peacekeeping framework to areas including Cambodia, Mozambique and East Timor, and Japanese troops are currently providing logistic support in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in southern Syria.
The Foreign Ministry, which is keen on sending the GSDF, has been spearheading efforts for GSDF participation in the UNIFIL framework, the sources said.
The envisioned task for GSDF is not to be directly involved in frontline activities to monitor the ceasefire but rather be engaged in logistic support, such as providing fuel, food and other supplies for foreign troops that are tasked to monitor the ceasefire, the sources said.
The Defense Agency, meanwhile, has expressed caution over this due to security concerns in southern Lebanon which, depending on the security situation at hand, may force an early withdrawal from the area, they said.
Subsequently, other proposals are being floated. One of them is to deploy Self-Defense Forces vessels to neighboring Cyprus, which serves as the base for collecting goods, and assign it to transport goods to Lebanon, according to the sources.
The decision on whether or not to send the GSDF is expected to face a rough road as the final decision will be handled by the post-Koizumi administration.
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