Japan weighs joining peacekeeping operation in Egypt

Japan weighs joining peacekeeping operation in Egypt

FORUM Staff

Japan is considering sending senior members of its Ground Self-Defense Force to Egypt under new security rules that could expand its military presence on the world stage.

The representatives would be Japan’s first peacekeepers sent overseas who were not under the command of the United Nations. Laws that took effect in 2016 allow the force to participate in “internationally coordinated operations for peace and safety” that are similar to U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Just how many peacekeepers would be initially involved is not clear. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that the force plans to send only two members, while other news agencies, including The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, have said that “several” senior members could be sent.

The representatives would be joining the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), an independent international organization established by Egypt and Israel, charged with keeping the peace in the Sinai Peninsula.

In 1979, Egypt and Israel asked the United Nations to provide a force and observers to supervise the implementation of the two nations’ peace treaty. When it did not prove possible to obtain Security Council approval for the stationing of a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Sinai, the countries negotiated a protocol in 1981 establishing the MFO as an alternative. The MFO, initiated by the United States, has been operating since 1982.

Japan has provided financial assistance to the operation since 1988. The mission has 1,200 personnel from Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay. (Pictured: Colombian Soldiers march during a military ceremony in preparation for deployment to the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping force.)

Japan’s Five Principles that control participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations will be applied in the Egypt operation, including the provision that a cease-fire agreement be in place among all the warring parties, Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported.

Japan has not participated in any peacekeeping operations since withdrawing an engineering unit from the U.N. mission in South Sudan in May 2017, the Nikkei Asian Review website reported. A few officers remain at the South Sudan headquarters. The force also maintains a small anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been looking for a new deployment destination in keeping with its policy of “proactive contributions to peace,” according to the website.

Japan is moving slowly in its decision to get more involved in peacekeeping missions. Before it sends the senior officials to Egypt in 2019, the prime minister’s office and the foreign and defense ministries will first conduct an on-site safety inspection, possibly this year.

The plan is not universally endorsed in Japan. The peninsula remains an unstable region, not because of any continuing conflict between Egypt and Israel, but because of Islamic militants operating there. The presence of the militants was behind the decision to send only a few force personnel instead of dispatching troops, the Japan News reported.

In peacekeeping missions, the Japanese force can protect civilians and go to their rescue when they are attacked by armed forces.

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