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Japanese Troops in South Sudan a First Since WWII

Image: Japanese Troops in South Sudan a First Since WWII

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces arrive at the airport in Juba, South Sudan, on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, as part of a first batch of Japanese peacekeepers who have a broader mandate to use force. (Justin Lynch/AP Photo)

By    |   Monday, 21 Nov 2016 12:25 PM

Japanese troops arrived in South Sudan on Monday as peacekeepers, but critics warned that their move could land the country in its first overseas fighting since World War II.

The soldiers will assist in building infrastructure in the poor African country that has been embroiled in a civil war for years, according to Reuters. The troops could also guard U.N. bases that have been attacked during fighting.

The first batch of a 350-soldier unit landed in the South Sudan capital of Juba under the command of Col. Yoshiro Tanaka, Toyko's Kyodo News reported. Kyodo said Japan has sent Ground Self-Defense Force troops to do engineering work as part of United Nation peacekeepers since 2012.

The news agency said that the South Sudan troops, though, will have more leeway in the use of weapons during the peacekeeping mission there. The troops will be allowed to rescue U.N. staffers and others being attacked and join foreign troops to defend U.N. peacekeeping camps.

The Japanese government said the troops will be involved in rescue missions "in very limited cases," according to Kyodo News.

One unnamed officer told the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun that Japanese soldiers could become involved in fighting there.

"Regardless of how much training is conducted, dangers will increase because the SDF members will confront unknown circumstances," the officer told The Asahi Shimbun. "I wonder if government officials are really aware of what the situation on the ground is like."

The United Nations said in a statement earlier this month that it feared that the young country, which gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, could be plunging toward "an outright ethnic war" and genocide.

"I am dismayed to report that what I have seen and heard here has confirmed my concerns that there is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential for genocide," Adama Dieng, the U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, told reporters in Juba this month, according to the U.N.

"Throughout the week, conversations with all actors have confirmed that what began as a political conflict has transformed into what could become an outright ethnic war," Dieng added.

Fighting in South Sudan started in 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those of former Vice President Riek Machar, wrote the U.N. Even though the two rivals signed a peace agreement in August 2015, violence between the sides started anew in July, noted the U.N.

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Japanese troops arrived in South Sudan on Monday as peacekeepers, but critics warned that their move could land the country in its first overseas fighting since World War II.
Japanese, troops, south sudan, fighting
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2016-25-21
Monday, 21 Nov 2016 12:25 PM
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