US presses Japan to back South Sudan arms embargo despite fears of backlash against peacekeepers

20-Dec-2016 Intellasia | Japantimes | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The United States is pressing Japan to back a draft United Nations Security Council resolution imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan, diplomats have said.

Japanese support is important if the resolution, which the US hopes to take to a vote soon, is to reach the minimum threshold of nine votes needed for passage in the Security Council, diplomats close to negotiations told Kyodo News recently.

But Tokyo is apparently concerned that if the council adopts the resolution, the South Sudanese government may retaliate against UN representatives on the ground, including Japanese peacekeepers stationed there.

The resolution is unlikely to be vetoed by either Russia or China – permanent members along with the US, Britain and France – putting the focus on how nonpermanent council members, such as Japan, Senegal, Malaysia and Angola, whose positions are not clear, will vote, a diplomatic source said.

Of the four, there are hopes that Japan and Senegal, in particular, can be persuaded to vote in favour of the resolution, enabling its passage.

The diplomat said the resolution would be “an important step in curbing what could be an imminent surge in violence against civilians” given the tenuous situation in South Sudan.

With conditions deteriorating in the African country, there are risks of a potential genocide if something is not done, the UN has warned.

Japan last month deployed a 350-strong Ground Self-Defense Force unit able to perform rescue operations of UN staff and personnel if required.

The unit is operating under Japan’s controversial new security laws that came into force in March. The new laws widened the scope of GSDF activities, potentially putting troops in harm’s way.

Under the laws, Japanese troops can also join foreign contingents to defend UN peacekeeping camps, even if GSDF members are not targeted in attacks.

Previously, the use of weapons by Japanese personnel during UN peacekeeping missions was limited strictly to self-defense purposes.

Tokyo has deployed an engineering unit within the UN mission in South Sudan, called UNMISS, since 2012, following the formation of the world’s newest country in 2011.

The country has been mired in unrest after a rivalry between South Sudan President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his now-exiled former deputy, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, led to the outbreak of civil war in 2013.

Tensions fell along ethnic lines pitting the Dinkas against the Nuers and while a shaky peace agreement was brokered, renewed fighting broke out again in July, once again raising global alarm.

Against that backdrop, a diplomat explained that Japan is worried that if the resolution is passed, the South Sudanese government could react violently by targeting peacekeepers.

“Japan remains actively engaged in Security Council discussions as both a council member and a troop-contributing country,” an official with the Japanese mission said. “We will explore what is most appropriate to achieve peace and stability in South Sudan as well as how to elicit positive engagement by the Transitional government of National Unity.”

Drafted by the United States, the text, which was obtained by Kyodo News, decides that for one year after the resolution’s adoption all member states are to immediately take “necessary measures” to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms or related materiel into South Sudan.

Additionally, three key figures, opposition leader Machar, Paul Malong, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s chief of staff, and Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s Information minister, are also subject to asset freezes and travel bans.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/12/19/national/politics-diplomacy/u-s-presses-japan-back-south-sudan-arms-embargo-despite-fears-backlash-peacekeepers/#.WFcwvlN97Dc

 


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