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GSDF troops begin training for wider South Sudan protection mission

Kyodo, Staff Report

The Ground Self-Defense Force has supported U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan since January 2012, six months after the nation gained independence.

The troops have been helping to build infrastructure such as roads.

New security laws that came into force in March give SDF personnel more leeway in their use of weapons. In line with this, the government said on Aug. 24 that the next batch of troops to rotate through South Sudan will begin training for missions with new parameters. The troops will head out to South Sudan in November.

The mission, known as kaketsuke keigo (rushing to the rescue), is a new concept for the SDF. It was introduced by amending Japan’s peacekeeping cooperation law. Before, the SDF could only defend those under its protection.

Now, SDF troops serving with the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), will be able to protect U.N. staff as well as citizens and soldiers of other nations who are under attack at locations away from the SDF unit’s base.

In the meantime, the SDF has been preparing for the mission by updating its rules of engagement, which determine how and when arms may be used. Commanders have also been teaching troops about the changes.

In May, troops joined the Mongolia-based multinational peacekeeping exercise Khaan Quest to gain experience of the cooperation that might be required in trouble spots.

Still, deteriorating conditions in South Sudan have fueled uncertainty. The southern region, including the capital Juba, had been considered relatively safe, but conflict in July between followers of President Salva Kiir and anti-government forces, prompted the GSDF to suspend its operations there.

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