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Two officers of the Ground Self-Defense Force have been dispatched by the government to join the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) peace support operation in southern Sudan. The decision to dispatch them was made in early October on the basis of the 1992 international peace cooperation law. The government should consider further increasing Japan’s personnel contributions to U.N. peace support efforts in line with the words and spirit of the war-renouncing Constitution.

Unlike the Self-Defense Forces’ activities in Iraq and the Indian Ocean, which support multinational military forces, the SDF’s participation in U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping operations should be easy for people to support.

Japan has been participating in peacekeeping operations on the Golan Heights and in Nepal. Now UNMIS has been added to the list. The U.N. Security Council decided to set up UNMIS in March 2005, following the signing in January that year of a peace agreement by the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army. UNMIS, composed of some 10,000 personnel from 68 countries, is deployed in southern Sudan. But conflict is still raging in western Sudan’s Darfur region.

The two GSDF members are in charge of database management for security information and coordination of material procurement and transportation at the UNMIS headquarters in Khartoum. Their mission will make a valuable contribution to Japan’s experience in peacekeeping operations.

The total number of Japanese personnel participating in peacekeeping operations is less than 50, according to the Cabinet Office’s International Peace Cooperation Headquarters. At present there are 16 peacekeeping operations involving some 108,000 people, including about 82,000 uniformed personnel. Peacekeeping operations are not necessarily safe.

As of Nov. 3, 2,534 peacekeepers have died in the course of their duties. Japan’s financial contribution, at 17 percent, is the second largest after that of the United States. But expectations are high that Japan will contribute more personnel.

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