GSDF families briefed on situation in South Sudan

Kyodo

The Ground Self-Defense Force has told families of personnel stationed in conflict-mired South Sudan that no direct attack has been made on their camp, a GSDF official said Tuesday.

The families of the personnel from the 7th Division, based in Chitose, Hokkaido, were told by phone that there has been no damage to the GSDF camp in the capital, Juba, where the troops are stationed, the official added.

Some 350 Self-Defense Forces personnel are currently in South Sudan as part of U.N. peacekeeping operations, engaging in civil engineering work.

Tensions remain high in the East African country even after President Salva Kiir and his rival, Vice President Riek Machar, ordered their loyalists on Monday to cease hostilities.

A U.N. source said there had been a gunfight near the GSDF camp.

Despite the tense situation in South Sudan, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said Tuesday that the SDF will continue to participate in the U.N. mission there.

The situation in South Sudan is “not one that should be classified as an armed conflict,” Nakatani said at a news conference, citing the orders given by the country’s president and vice president to cease hostilities.

Meanwhile, the government dispatched three Air Self-Defense Force C-130 transport planes Monday to evacuate Japanese nationals in South Sudan. The planes are expected to arrive there on Thursday at the earliest.

There are currently about 70 Japanese in Juba, according to the government.

The recent fighting has reportedly killed hundreds of people, including eight near a refugee camp close to a U.N. facility.