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2012年12月23日 (日)

ゴラン高原撤収 意義深かった17年間のPKO

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 23, 2012)
17-year SDF Golan mission played significant role
ゴラン高原撤収 意義深かった17年間のPKO(12月22日付・読売社説)

The Self-Defense Forces have played a significant role in the U.N. peace-keeping operation in the Golan Heights, although it has not attracted much attention recently. The SDF has been working for the U.N. mission at the border between Israel and Syria for 17 years, the longest mission since the government first dispatched SDF personnel to a U.N. peace-keeping operation two decades ago.

Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto on Friday ordered members of the Ground Self-Defense Force transportation unit who were dispatched to the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights to withdraw to Japan. The government decided on the pullout because the civil war between Syrian government forces and insurgents has intensified recently, making it impossible to strike a balance between securing the safety of GSDF personnel and doing substantial work in the mission.

Deteriorating security forced the Japanese Embassy in Syria to close down in March and has limited activities of GSDF members in UNDOF. For instance, the GSDF has used a private company to do part of its transport work since June. In another sign of worsening security, Austrian soldiers in UNDOF recently came under attack.


GSDF pullout inevitable

We understand the government decided to bring the GSDF unit home due to circumstances beyond its control.

In December 1995, the government decided to send GSDF members to join the U.N. mission on the border between the two Middle Eastern countries.

GSDF members have been in charge of transporting daily necessities between Damascus, the capital of Syria, and the area of separation, a kind of buffer zone between the two nations, and repairing roads and clearing snow in the area. They are replaced every six months. Currently, 44 members of the GSDF transport unit are with UNDOF in addition to three members assigned to its command.

GSDF activities in the Golan Heights have constituted part of the U.N. ceasefire monitoring to keep peace in the Middle East and at the same time played the role of a "PKO school," preparing SDF members for other international operations contributing to peace.

SDF members will be able to work for international cooperation under more difficult circumstances because of their experience in the U.N. mission in the Golan Heights. They have deepened their own understanding of peace-keeping operations and interacted with PKO members from other countries. Over the 17 years, a total of 1,500 SDF members have been dispatched to the Golan Heights.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Japan's first participation in a U.N. peace-keeping operation. Since then, a total of 9,200 SDF members have participated in peace-keeping missions. With a greater number of its members who have experienced international operations, the SDF could enhance partnerships and cooperative relations with armed forces in other countries and improve its own abilities to cope with emergencies.


Relax rules on weapons use

The GSDF now in Haiti is also scheduled to pull out by next spring. Since 2010, the GSDF unit has helped restore damage caused to the country by a major earthquake that occurred in the same year. When it returns to Japan, the unit will leave behind 14 heavy machines it used for the Haitian government.

The machines include four with gun mounts, which in the past could not have been handed over to other countries because they were considered arms. However, the offer of the machines became possible after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Cabinet relaxed the government's three principles on arms exports at the end of last year. We think Japan should proactively supply what were considered arms in the past to other countries in the future for such peace-building and humanitarian purposes.

Meanwhile, the GSDF is still working for a U.N. peace-keeping operation in South Sudan. We urge the government to relax tight restrictions imposed on SDF members' use of weapons. The current law allows them to use weapons exclusively for self-defense purposes, preventing SDF members from working effectively in U.N. missions. The law should be revised to enable the SDF to rush to the defense of PKO members of other countries or civilians facing hostilities and save them by using weapons if necessary.

We expect the new government to be formed next week to again tackle revision of the U.N. Peacekeeping Cooperation Law, an effort that has repeatedly failed in the past.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 22, 2012)
(2012年12月22日01時04分  読売新聞)


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