The U.N. peacekeeping chief says that he would not ask Japan to send troops to front-line missions and needs more logistic support in Africa, where most of its personnel are engaged.
Speaking at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Herve Ladsous, the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, said Friday that about 90 percent of its peacekeepers are deployed in Africa “in a sort of wide arc of crises that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean right over the Indian Ocean.”
Calling its missions in Africa “multidisciplinary,” Ladsous said the U.N. peacekeepers need to address a wide range of issues in situations where the security and stability are challenged by “nonstate actors,” such as terrorists, extremists, jihadis and “transnationals with connections including to the Islamic State, certainly to al-Qaida.”
“We need increased cooperation and support from highly developed countries, (including) Japan obviously . . . to bring us high-end capabilities that we need on the ground,” the veteran French diplomat said.
However, Ladsous stressed he is not asking Japan to send its troops to the front line.
“I’m not talking about ground-troops on the front line,” Ladsous told reporters. “Certainly as of now, and probably in the future, I would not offer the Self-Defense Forces frontline position.”
“We are fully cognizant of the context in Japan of the constitutional and legal angles, also the mindset of the people,” he added.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet in July made a landmark decision to reinterpret Article 9 of the Constitution in a way that allows Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or aiding an ally under military attack. His team is pushing new security legislation to give the Self-Defense Forces a bigger role overseas.
Instead, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said he would like to see more logistic support from Japan, such engineering units, field hospitals and cooperation on technology.
“I’m very pleased . . . to see that what Prime Minister Abe had announced in New York in September, that is to say, the setting up of a military engineering training and equipment facility for African armies, probably in Uganda, is now moving ahead,” Ladsous said.
Abe pledged in September at a U.N. meeting in New York that Japan would closely monitor Africa because “the rapid deployment of PKOs (peacekeeping operations) is a particularly urgent challenge” in that region.
“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.
On Tuesday, Ladsous met State Minister for Foreign Affairs Yasuhide Nakayama, who told him the government is preparing about $40 million in support to back Abe’s September pledge.
Ladsous praised Japan’s past contributions to U.N. PKOs, which date back to 1992.
“Japanese service people have been found to be extremely reliable, they are very professional, they are highly trained, and they are dedicated to their task,” he noted. “We have come to admire and, of course, be constantly grateful for the contribution they are making.”