NEW YORK – The United States is pressing Japan to back a U.N. Security Council resolution that would impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, according to diplomats.
Japanese support is important if the resolution is to reach the minimum threshold of nine votes needed for passage in the Security Council, but Japan is concerned that the South Sudanese government could retaliate against U.N. representatives on the ground, including Japanese peacekeepers stationed there.
The resolution is unlikely to be vetoed by either Russia or China, putting the focus on how nonpermanent council members, including Japan, Senegal, Malaysia and Angola, will vote, a diplomatic source said.
Of those four nations, the U.S. hopes that Japan and Senegal in particular can be persuaded to vote in favor of the resolution, enabling its passage.
A diplomat said the resolution, which the U.S. wants voted on soon, would be “an important step in curbing what could be an imminent surge in violence against civilians” given the tenuous situation in South Sudan.
With conditions deteriorating in the African country, there are risks of genocide if something is not done, the U.N. has warned.
The diplomat explained that Japan is worried that if the U.N. resolution is passed, the South Sudanese government could react violently by targeting peacekeepers.
“Japan remains actively engaged in Security Council discussions as both a council member and a troop-contributing country,” an official with the Japanese mission to the U.N. said. “We will explore what is most appropriate to achieve peace and stability in South Sudan as well as how to elicit positive engagement by the Transitional Government of National Unity.”
Drafted by the United States, the resolution calls for “necessary measures” to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms or related materiel into South Sudan for one year.
Additionally, three key figures — opposition leader Machar, Paul Malong, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s chief of staff, and Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s information minister, would be subject to asset freezes and travel bans.
A new 350-strong Ground Self-Defense Force unit was recently deployed to South Sudan with expanded mission parameters that include the possibility of rescuing U.N. staff if required.
The unit is operating under the controversial new security laws that came into force in March, widening the scope of Self-Defense Forces activities and potentially putting troops in harm’s way. Under the laws, SDF personnel can also join foreign contingents to defend U.N. peacekeeping camps, even if the SDF is not being targeted.
Previously, the use of weapons by Japanese personnel during U.N. peacekeeping missions was limited strictly to self-defense.
The GSDF has been engaged in building infrastructure as part of the U.N. mission in South Sudan, called UNMISS, since 2012, following the formation of the world’s newest country in 2011.
The country has been mired in unrest after a rivalry between President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his now-exiled former deputy, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, led to the outbreak of civil war in 2013.
Tensions fell along ethnic lines pitting the Dinkas against the Nuers, and while a shaky peace agreement was brokered, renewed fighting broke out again in July, once again raising global alarm.
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