Japan is gearing up to dispatch two senior officers of the Ground Self-Defense Force to a multinational peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula under national security laws that expand the scope of Japanese troop activities overseas, government sources said.

The dispatch to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) would mark the first overseas operation not under the direct command of the United Nations under the legislation enacted in 2015.

It is intended to help monitor the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in the demilitarized Sinai Peninsula in eastern Egypt.

Egypt and Israel concluded the peace treaty after the Arab-Israeli War. The MFO was established based on a protocol attached to the treaty.

The multinational force is tasked with maintaining peace along the border between Egypt and Israel and ensuring that the two countries abide by the truce.

The MFO is headquartered in Italy and operates from two bases in the northern and southern Sinai Peninsula. Its force comprised 1,160 members as of 2017. The United States and Britain are among countries that have dispatched troops.

Japanese officials cited “international cooperation activities for peace and safety,” which allows Tokyo to expand the scope of troop activity under the national security legislation.

This enables it to dispatch SDF personnel on international missions similar to United Nations peacekeeping operations.

SDF members are empowered to monitor truce obligations, rescue people affected by military conflict and help secure the safety of residents in such situations, using their weapons if necessary.

Provisions in the legislation allow the government to dispatch SDF members for a new overseas peacekeeping mission only when the conflict area meets “five principles" for such activities, including having a cease-fire agreement in place.

According to the sources, the dispatch of two GSDF members to the Sinai Peninsula will be overseen by the National Security Secretariat and the Cabinet Office’s Secretariat of the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters.

In August, officials from those two organizations, as well as the Foreign and Defense ministries, visited the Sinai Peninsula for an on-the-spot assessment, and reported to the prime minister’s office that the security situation there meets the terms of the five principles.

The government is considering dispatching two field officers, most likely of the rank of lieutenant colonel or major, to the two command centers instead of sending a GSDF unit.

The last GSDF overseas mission was to South Sudan to take part in U.N. PKO activities. It wound up in May 2017.

Since then, the Abe administration, as part of its policy of “positive pacifism,” has been eager to dispatch SDF members to a different country.

Constitutional restraints that prohibit Japan from waging war mean that Japanese troops can only use their weapons in self-defense.

This restriction, coupled with the five principles that govern overseas troop dispatches, has made it more difficult for the Japanese government to find a country that meets these conditions as U.N. PKO activities allow participants to use their weapons beyond the realm of self-defense.

The conditions prevailing in the Sinai Peninsula allowed the government to consider sending a mission.

Given that a new framework to send SDF personnel overseas has been established under the national security legislation, government officials were keen to take advantage of it.

But a government official added this caveat that Japan intends only to produce a "visible achievement" through the dispatch.