Subject: KY: Japan to send 680 peacekeepers to East Timor

Japan to send 680 peacekeepers to East Timor

Kyodo News Service

Tokyo, 15 February: Japan will dispatch nearly 700 members of its Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) engineering unit to East Timor to take part in UN peacekeeping operations (PKO), the Foreign Ministry said Friday [15 February].

The decision, approved by the cabinet, means sending 680 GSDF and 10 administrative personnel to the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to help prepare for the territory's independence in late May in response to a United Nations request.

The GSDF unit - the largest ever for peacekeeping operations - will gradually be dispatched from this month until April. The first batch, including the commanding officer, is slated to arrive 4 March in Dili, the ministry said.

"I pay deep respect to the valuable contribution by the members of the international peace cooperation unit to East Timor's nation-building through taking part in the UN PKO activities," Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said at the morning's cabinet meeting.

The GSDF unit will work in the southern and western regions of East Timor and an enclave in West Timor. It will support the maintenance and repair of roads and bridges, and do other kinds of work based on East Timorese requests and UNTAET instructions.

At the UNTAET headquarters, the administrative staff will plan activities for the GSDF officers, the ministry said.

The unit will operate in East Timor likely until 20 August. But the government plans to extend the operations sequentially for up to two years, ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers said earlier.

The GSDF force is expected to carry 10 machine guns, the most such weapons compared with previous and ongoing peacekeeping operations.

The Self-Defence Forces (SDF) will likely transport 295 vehicles to East Timor. The 8,900-ton transport ship Osumi, the largest of its kind in the SDF, and the 2,950-ton destroyer Mineyuki are expected to transport the personnel and cargo and escort them from the beginning of March...

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