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(Project of the Kajima Institute of International Peace)

Commemorating a Quarter Century of Dispatches of the JSDF's PKO Units: Challenges and Possibilities in the Post South Sudan PKO Activities

Takayuki Shoji
Lecturer, Nihon University
Associate, the Society of Security and Diplomatic Policy Studies

1.Looking ahead at the 25th anniversary

This year 2017 is a historical milestone for Japan's international peace cooperation. This is because the International Peace Cooperation Law, introduced in June 1992 under the Miyazawa Cabinet, celebrated its 25th anniversary. The "International Peace Cooperation Law 25th Anniversary Special Page" was opened on the official website of the Secretariat of the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters, Cabinet Office, and relevant announcements were placed in many newspapers. This demonstrates the importance of the International Peace Cooperation Law.

However, we need to examine problems with operations based on the International Peace Cooperation Law. The Self Defense Forces (SDF) engineering units that were dispatched to South Sudan (The Republic of South Sudan after its independence) in January 2012 engaged in infrastructure development and defense exchanges, and concluded their activities this year. Japan now only dispatches staff officers and liaison/coordination personnel to the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS)1 .

Dispatching units to UNMISS was the first case after a partial but critical amendment to the International Peace Cooperation Law in 2015. For every unit dispatch requested by the United Nations to Japan in future, this experience will inevitably be referred to. In this sense, it is necessary to consider what problems were faced over the dispatch to the South Sudan of PKO units. Also, what initiatives can be considered to be undertaken when looking at post-South Sudan? Such a review will provide a platform for a constructive and realistic debate on future PKO activities.

2.Domestic discussions over divided forces: "South-North" and "South-South"

The International Peace Cooperation Law is considered as a starting point in discussions on the dispatch of South Sudan PKO. What were most discussed about the law were ceasefire agreements and the use of weapons in the Five Principles for Participation.

When the SDF dispatch was considered, the framework of discussion for the Sudanese civil war was clearly a "South-North" fight. The civil war framework, however, changed immediately to a "South-South" fight after the death of John Garang de Mabior (the SPLA/SPLM: Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement)2 .

Whether the framework of discussion in Japan is the "South-North" or the "South-South", it is certain that there was an intense debate in the Diet on whether or not a ceasefire agreement was established in Sudan. However, since the time of the North-South conflict, the southern forces have constantly faced repeated division and dissolution. Even the SPLA/SPLM is not a monolithic organization. Contrary to the intense debate over the ceasefire agreement, discussions on how to deal with such forces, in other words quasi-state organizations that were not covered by an established framework were not made sufficiently.

During activities of the UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) in May 1993, a Japanese Civilian Police (CIVPOL) officer was killed. The criminal was not discovered, and activities of divided forces that are not covered by the framework of the ceasefire agreement still continue in the same way. Moreover, in discussions before the event, considerable attention was only paid to whether or not the ceasefire agreement was established and maintained, but discussion on countermeasures against divided forces was extremely limited. Although the dispatch destination and the dispatch scale are different, Japan still repeats the same discussion as a quarter century ago.

3.Concerns about assuming a new mission

Japan has not, however, ignored to take measures against forces that were not included in existing frameworks of the ceasefire agreement. When a Japanese CIVPOL officer was attacked in Cambodia, a dispatch of election observers was imminent in Japan. While ensuring the security of Japan's election observers was drawing great attention, the SDF was not permitted to have a guard mission due to the law existing at the time. Therefore, the government of Japan determined to make the SDF patrols over the election observers under the pretence of "supply and information gathering" activities as if the SDF guarded Japan's observers3 .

Given these historical experiences, giving new tasks such as "kaketsuke-keigo" (coming to the aid of geographically distant unit or personnel under attack)4 will be responding to current problems. When the International Peace Cooperation Law was introduced, the use of weapons was limited to a minimum necessary for self-defense. Relaxation of this rule was realized in the 2001 amendment to the law. Freeze on the PKF (Peacekeeping Forces) ended, and use of weapons was also admitted to protect those who entered under the PKF's control. However, the JSDF has never used weapons in any PKO mission.

There is now a question to address. Can the SDF, that has no experience of using weapons, adapt to new tasks that require more aggressive action? Firstly, it is said that a considerable level of practice is indispensable for engaging in any new tasks. Since the Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) started a practical training in September 20165 , the period of training before an actual assignment is less than half a year. Not only is the SDF inexperienced, but its training time is very short.

Discussion concentrates too much on the constitutionality of new tasks, and self-defense and protection of personnel from other countries still present difficulties.

4.Expanding missions: technological innovation and human resource education

In this way, domestic discussions over divided forces and use of weapons were held before the South Sudan PKO mission. Once the ceasefire agreement and weapons usage rules were established the discussion was limited to how these frameworks are met in JSDF operations. Now facing these challenges, Japan is reaching a point of considering models for the next PKO dispatch.

Needless to say, for the past quarter century, occasions when the PKO was at the center of Diet deliberations were extremely limited. The heated Diet deliberation over the International Peace Cooperation Law was a rather rare case. The arguments over the important amendment of the law in 2015 were not extensive.

However, we are not only currently facing problems. Atul Khare (Under-Secretary-General for Field Support) in June this year rated Japan's participation as "Contribution by the brain". He also stated that he was thinking to introduce a Japanese toilet that does not use water to the PKO sites as an example of technological innovation in equipment6 . This kind of contribution means that Japan can play a role in the public health area such as for the prevention of cholera and dysentery through technology and comparative advantage.

The aspect of comparative advantage is also recognized as a human contribution. Since May 29, 2017, the GSDF began training for Tanzanian military facility personnel in Nairobi. These attempts have already been advanced for the Kenyan army from 2015 to 20167 . However, human resource development in other countries is another possibility. As capacity building in other countries progresses, the possibility of their collaboration with Japan is also learned. Propagation of experience and technology also leads to improvement in activities at the PKO sites and will eventually contribute to overall upgrading of the level of PKO activities.

While the problems are emphasized in the case of South Sudan, Japan can expand PKO missions. What is going on and how will Japan proceed in the next quarter of a century? We are now at a turning point where we have to at least show a direction for future missions.

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