• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will work to boost its participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations following his Cabinet’s decision to expand the Self-Defense Forces’ role in July.

In a speech Friday during a high-level meeting on strengthening international peacekeeping, Abe said Japan would closely look at Africa as “the rapid deployment of PKOs is a particularly urgent challenge,” especially in the region.

Abe also voiced support for the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership announced last month by the United States.

“Japan is prepared to provide engineering equipment in Africa through the trust fund in the United Nations as well as training in operating these machines effectively,” Abe said.

In July, the Cabinet made a landmark decision to expand the role the SDF may be allowed to play, enabling them to go to the defense of allies under armed attack. This involved a reinterpretation of the pacifist Constitution that had kept the forces to strict self-defense activities. Lawmakers are now working on relevant legislation needed for the SDF’s new tasks.

“Peacekeeping operations are the most important activity which the United Nations has been engaging in for international peace and security among others,” Abe said.

Abe, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the meeting, along with other world leaders, including Rwandan President Paul Kagame, on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly debate that kicked off Wednesday.

The participating countries issued a joint statement reaffirming their support for U.N. peacekeeping operations at a time when they are more critical than ever to international peace and security.

“We commend the progress in recent years to make U.N. peacekeeping operations more effective and efficient, but note that critical reforms are still needed to further strengthen peacekeeping operations to meet evolving security threats and challenges,” the statement said. “To this end, we support the secretary-general’s strategic review and underscore our commitment to ensure that U.N. peacekeeping operations have the funding, forces, equipment, training and capabilities they need.”

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