Japan to supply ammo to ROK peacekeepers in South Sudan

The government decided Monday to supply ammunition to U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan, paving the way for Japan to provide such supplies to foreign or U.N. military forces for the first time.

Japan will provide 10,000 bullets without charge, most likely to South Korean troops taking part in the U.N. peacekeeping operation in the fledgling African country.

Citing the urgency of the situation there and humanitarian needs, Japan has decided to make an exception to its arms embargo, which is based on the so-called three principles governing weapons exports, the officials said.

The decision was made in emergency four- and nine-minister meetings of the new National Security Council, after a joint request for 5.56-mm rifle ammo was received from the South Korean military and the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), government officials said.

Of all the peacekeeping troops in South Sudan, only the Japanese and South Koreans use 5.56-mm rifles, they said.

The ammunition will be treated as an exception to rules that effectively ban all arms exports because the matter is of “high urgency and humane concern,” they added.

The law governing peacekeeping operations says it can provide supplies, with Cabinet approval, as part of its cooperation in U.N. activities.

The move will prompt debates in the Diet because the law has no provision for supplying weapons, including ammunition, to a third country, critics said.

The PKO cooperation law says in Article 25 that Japan can offer goods assistance if the move is deemed appropriate for the nation’s cooperation in international humanitarian relief operations or election monitoring.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with ministers including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera shortly after noon Monday to discuss the situation in South Sudan, officials said.

Suga will issue a comment explaining the government’s stance on the matter after the cartridges are delivered to the Republic of Korea peacekeepers, they said.

In South Sudan, battles ignited by ethnic conflicts on Dec. 15 in Juba, the capital, have spread throughout the new nation.

Amid the deteriorating situation, an armed group attacked an UNMISS facility in Juba and killed Indian peacekeepers on Thursday.

The South Korean troops are operating in a southern part of the country that is believed to have fallen into the hands of rebel forces.

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