Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is considering visiting conflict-torn South Sudan this month to examine the area where the Self-Defense Forces deploy for U.N. peacekeeping operations, a government source said.
The trip, expected to take place after her trip to the United States on Sept. 13, is taking shape as the government considers how to deploy the next batch of SDF troops in November under Japan’s new security laws, which expand the types of missions the SDF can take on.
Inada’s decisions for the African mission will be closely watched, given the impending changes to the purely defensive nature of the SDF.
In mid-July, former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani had to dispatch C-130 cargo planes to Juba, the capital of the young country, from the Air Self-Defense Force’s Komaki base in Nagoya to rescue Japanese aid workers and embassy staff after clashes broke out between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to Vice President Riek Machar.
Around 70 Japanese, including aid workers with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, were eventually evacuated to Nairobi.
Japan aims to play a more active role in peacekeeping operations abroad because the laws that took effect in March eased the criteria for weapons use, which until now had been strictly limited to self-defense and emergencies.
Inada is expected to visit Juba to encourage the troops there and get briefed on SDF activities there.
But the source said the final decision on the trip will be made depending on the security situation. Japan has been part of a U.N. mission in the country since 2012.
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