Japan has deployed a first batch of 130 troops to South Sudan. The team which is deployed ‘with the mandate to use force’ if need be, landed in Africa’s youngest country on Monday.
They will join the United Nations (UN) peacekeepers to protect its installations in South Sudan.
Tsuyoshi Higuchi, from Japanese military’s information department, told Reuters in the capital, Juba, that 67 troops arrived in the morning while another 63 were expected to land in the afternoon.
220 more are expected in the middle of December to complete the figure of 350 troops deployed in line with Japanese security legislation to expand the military’s role overseas.
The Japanese contingent could be involved in active combat, their country’s first post World War II. They are expected to help the UN force to provide security and to help build infrastructure in South Sudan.
But, under new powers granted by their government last year, they will be allowed to respond to urgent calls for help from U.N. staff and aid workers. There are also plans to let them guard U.N. bases, which have been attacked during the fighting.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan in 2011 – a development greeted at the time with mass celebrations in the oil-producing state. Aid agencies and world powers promised support.
But fighting, largely along ethnic lines, erupted in 2013 after President Salva Kiir sacked his longtime political rival Riek Machar from the post of vice president.
A peace deal, agreed in 2015 under intense international pressure and the threat of sanctions, brought Machar back to the capital Juba in April, but he fled after more clashes and the violence has continued.