The Shinzo Abe Cabinet on Nov. 15 gave the green light to the Ground Self-Defense Force to engage in “kaketsuke-keigo” and other missions in United Nations peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. Kaketsuke-keigo literally means “rushing (to distant places) to protect and rescue (people).”

We renew our objection to assigning this additional duty to the GSDF in South Sudan, which is effectively in a state of civil war.

The security situation in South Sudan is extremely volatile. Adama Dieng, the special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general on preventing genocide, warned on Nov. 11 that the nation faces the risk of genocide if ethnic violence escalates.

Chaos is also spreading within the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). Following armed clashes that erupted in July in the capital city of Juba, civilian law enforcement officers and others from various countries began leaving. And after the dismissal of the Kenyan-born UNMISS commander earlier this month, Kenya started pulling out its troops in protest.

Weapons are in circulation all over the war-torn nation, and U.N. facilities were looted during the July violence.

According to South Sudan’s minister of information and broadcasting who was interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun, government forces and U.N. forces exchanged fire during the July fighting.

Yet, the Japanese government reiterates that the situation in South Sudan meets Japan’s “five conditions for participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations” that were established in keeping with the Constitution. This argument just doesn’t wash.

Given the reality of the situation, it could hardly be said that two of the five conditions have been met, namely, that a truce exists between the belligerents, and that the belligerents have agreed to Japan’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

As for the GSDF’s rush-and-rescue missions, the government explains that they will be undertaken only as temporary, emergency measures in situations such as the absence of U.N. troops nearby.

Stressing the need to protect and rescue Japanese citizens, the government says the missions will be limited to the Juba and surrounding areas, and that they will not be for aiding foreign troops.

The government also says the possibility of the GSDF actually engaging in these missions is slight. But if so, why this rush to get the ball rolling during the present chaos?

In conducting these missions, GSDF troops may find themselves in situations where it will be difficult to identify the hostile forces they encounter. Should the GSDF end up exchanging fire with government forces, this may well be in violation of Article 9 of the Constitution that does not recognize the state’s right of belligerency.

We have nothing against expanding the scope of SDF participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions. But obviously, this must be in strict compliance with the five conditions for participation in such operations.

The present reality of South Sudan hardly renders that possible.

Tasking the GSDF with this new rush-and-rescue assignment should not be at the top of the government’s list of priorities now.

Rather, the government should be preparing a withdrawal plan in case the civil war escalates to the point where the GSDF can no longer really fulfill its intended mission of building and maintaining roads and various facilities.

Japan’s only aim should be to help with South Sudan’s nation-building, not to assert its presence by continuing to deploy SDF troops there.

And for that, the government must change the focus of Japanese aid. Now is the time to plan a viable “exit strategy” and bolster contributions that befit Japan’s nature, such as humanitarian aid and diplomatic efforts.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 16