A New Law Could Push Japan Into A Fight Overseas

Ryan Pickrell | China/Asia Pacific Reporter

A new law has expanded the operational scope of Japan’s peacekeeping troops, putting the country at risk of conflict abroad for the first time since World War II.

Japan has troops in war-torn South Sudan on a limited mandate. Members of Japan’s Self-Defense Force (SDF) have been working on infrastructure projects in non-combat zones as part of an ongoing United Nations mission since 2012. Their mandate is now changing.

New legislation adopted by Japan Tuesday will allow Japanese troops to engage in rescue missions for parties that come under attack and defend U.N. camps occupied by foreign forces, reports Reuters. The role of the SDF was expanded by a controversial security law last year. In March, the SDF was given approval to defend its allies abroad in the event of an attack.

Under the provisions of the law, Japanese SDF troops could come to the aid of U.N. units and non-governmental organization (NGO) personnel.

“South Sudan cannot assure its peace and stability on its own and for that very reason, a U.N. peacekeeping operation is being conducted,” explained Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a cabinet meeting Tuesday. “The SDF…is carrying out activities that only it can do in a tough environment.”

The Japanese government, in late October, decided to extend operations in South Sudan to March of next year. Three hundred and fifty more Japanese troops will be deployed to South Sudan starting Nov. 20. The SDF troops will be deployed in three waves.

Cameras will be attached to the helmets of the Japanese troops to determine whether their actions — which can include firing warning shots or using weapons for self-defense purposes — are justified, according to The Japan News.

Critics of the new legislation argue that the expanded mandate could erode Japan’s pacifist Constitution and involve the Japanese military in a conflict overseas.

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