Expansion of SDF duties with PKO will raise risk of ‘killing’ and being ‘killed’

February 5, 2016

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo at a House of Representatives committee meeting on February 4 warned that the expansion of Self-Defense Forces’ duties in UN Peacekeeping Operations in South Sudan will increase the possibility of SDF members “killing” and being “killed”, demanding that the war legislation which includes the revised-PKO law be revoked without a moment’s delay.

Shii revealed that the nature of UN PKO missions has greatly changed in the last 20 years and that peacekeepers have become increasingly expected to use weapons. He explained the following developments:

The main mission of PKO used to be for ceasefire monitoring based on the UN principle of neutrality and non-intervention in internal affairs. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda, however, brought about a new thought that UN peacekeepers should protect civilians even by the use of force. Since then, their main mission has gradually changed from “truce monitoring” to “protection of civilians” which entails the use of force. Eight PKOs are currently on missions in Africa. All of them regard “protection of civilians” as their important task with the allowable use of firearms. Even after situations erupt into a battle following the breakdown of a ceasefire, these UN troops remain under operations in each place of duty.

The government of Japan has been explaining that the SDF takes part in PKOs on condition that: a ceasefire is on place; all parties concerned agree to accept the SDF; the SDF firmly maintains its neutrality; the SDF does not resort to arms; and Japan will immediately pull out the SDF if any of these criteria fail to be met.

Shii counter-argued by quoting Isezaki Kenji, a professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, who once served in the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor as saying:

Protection of civilians is a primary duty of PKOs. It usually starts after the breakdown of a ceasefire agreement. Anyone who cannot engage in this duty should not join in PKO activities in the first place. This is how other PKO participating countries see their roles. The Japanese government, however, seems to be unaware of this. With the change in the nature of PKO missions, Japan’s conditions for SDF participation in PKOs as well as its war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution are no longer consistent with PKO activities.

Situation in South Sudan

The Japanese government has repeatedly insisted that South Sudan has been largely calm and that the conditions for Japan’s participation in PKOs have still been met.

Shii, however, noted that the United Nations made an accusation of a terrible infringement of human rights in South Sudan. Reportedly, thousands of people have been murdered and 2.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes since the outbreak of a civil war in December 2013.

Defense Minister Nakatani Gen replied to Shii that owing to a peace accord reached in August 2015, “the conditions for SDF participation in the PKO have been kept and Juba, the capital of South Sudan, where SDF troops are on duty is peaceful.”

In response, Shii said that the United Nations reports that relentless battles are still ongoing even after the peace agreement was made. According to the UN report, traditional areas of refuge, such as chapels and hospitals, and even UN bases have come under armed attacks. Almost all places in South Sudan are not safe, the report concludes.

Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio insisted, “I don’t see any armed conflict taking place there.”


The UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) was created with the aim of maintaining public order there. As of today, out of 11,892 military personnel, 353 are from the SDF. Already 36, including civilian personnel, have been killed.

Shii showed the UN report indicating that 92 out of 102 attacks on the UNMISS between April 2015 and August 2015 were by the government security forces. He said that PKO personnel have been under constant assault by both antigovernment and government forces.

Shii argued that if the government forces attack the UNMISS or local people, the SDF will probably have no option but to exchange gunfire.

Yet, Defense Minister Nakatani said that if any, it would happen only incidentally. Nakatani only gave irresponsible answers despite being supposedly responsible for the lives of SDF personnel.

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