Japan to withdraw troops from South Sudan

Japan will no longer maintain peacekeeping forces in South Sudan after May, according to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a decision on Friday to withdraw Tokyo’s peacekeeping forces from South Sudan by the end of May. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a decision on Friday to withdraw Tokyo’s peacekeeping forces from South Sudan by the end of May. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

The deployment of Tokyo’s self-defense forces to the conflict zone, which allowed Japanese troops for the first time to engage in armed combat during “joint protection” of camps, will come to a close because conditions in the country’s capital are now “relatively stable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, according to The Japan Times.

But Kyodo news agency reported the decision was made abruptly due to the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan.

Tokyo’s self-defense forces may also have not been properly informed of the top government decision ahead of the announcement.

Abe had agreed to troop withdrawal after a meeting with his national security council.

“We sincerely thank the families of self-defense forces members” dispatched to South Sudan, Abe told reporters on Friday. “Under the banner of peace, we will continue to support peace and development in South Sudan along with the international community.”

Japan is expected to withdraw about 350 troops.

In July, gunfire was exchanged at a camp in Juba, the South Sudanese capital, close to a Japanese peacekeeping station. The incident may have been a decisive factor on the decision made on Friday, according to Kyodo.

“We understand the security situation [of South Sudan] is still very severe, but conditions in the capital city are relatively stable,” Suga said.

Japan has deployed 4,000 troops to Juba since January 2012.

By Elizabeth Shim