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Visiting U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon requested on Wednesday that Japan dispatch helicopters to U.N. peacekeeping missions although Tokyo recently gave up on its plan to send Self-Defense Forces choppers to a U.N. mission in Sudan, a Japanese official said.

In a meeting with Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, Ban expressed gratitude for Japan’s swift dispatch of SDF personnel to a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti after the country was hit by a devastating earthquake in January and told Kitazawa the world body anticipates more contributions from Japan.

Ban said Japan’s decision not to send helicopters to Sudan was regrettable but the United Nations respects a sovereign nation’s policy.

The U.N. chief also said he realizes Japan’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping activities faces restrictions under its Constitution. However, he urged Tokyo to send more SDF units abroad, without elaborating on which peacekeeping mission requires contributions, according to the official.

Japan restricts the SDF’s use of arms on U.N. peacekeeping operations mainly to purposes of self-defense.

Kitazawa was also quoted as telling Ban that Japan’s decision not to send Ground Self-Defense Force helicopters to Sudan was “regrettable” but the ruling Democratic Party of Japan hopes to have the country make future contributions to peacekeeping missions abroad.

He said the DPJ-led government will seriously consider sending choppers on another U.N. mission, according to the Japanese official.

The government said in July that GSDF helicopters would not be sent to Sudan to help transport ballot boxes for a referendum next January as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission because of operational difficulties and high costs.

The Japanese official said demand for helicopters is high for U.N. peacekeeping missions in Africa as a means of transportation where roads and other infrastructure are lacking.

Youths key to dream

Visiting U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said Wednesday he believes ridding the world of nuclear weapons is “not an impossible dream” and urged young Japanese to lead an international movement to promote disarmament.

Speaking to students at Waseda University in Tokyo, Ban stressed that the total elimination of nuclear weapons can be achieved, saying, “Some people say that’s a dream, that’s a too-high ambition. But I think the opposite way.”

Ban, who on Friday will become the first U.N. head to attend the annual ceremony commemorating the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, said Japan has “a unique and special role” to play in the area of nuclear disarmament and he is taking part to “join my voice with all those who say: Never, ever again.”

The United Nations is now working hard together with world leaders to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, Ban said, adding the world body “needs the unique qualities, the energy and creativity, of Japan’s young people.”

“Disarmament must be an essential part of international peace and security. Disarmament is a practical necessity for a safer world for all,” he said.

“I hope that you, the younger generation of Japan, will carry the torch your parents and grandparents have lit and become leaders for disarmament. Tell the stories of the survivors of the nuclear bombs . . . to keep the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki alive,” he said.

Ban also expressed gratitude for Japan’s contributions to U.N. peacekeeping operations, development aid and promotion of a sustainable society and environmental conservation.

He said he expects Japan to further increase its participation in peacekeeping activities and maintain its financial commitment to developing countries despite its fiscal conditions.

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