Subject: RT: Japan troops depart for East Timor peacekeeping

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Japan troops depart for East Timor peacekeeping

TOKYO, March 22 (Reuters) - About 300 Japanese troops set off to East Timor on Friday to take part in U.N. peacekeeping operations as part of what will be Japan's largest-ever peacekeeping deployment.

The soldiers from the Ground Self-Defence Forces left Japan in the morning and are due to arrive in Dili, the main city of the former Indonesian territory, on Saturday or Sunday. They will join an advance team of some 50 personnel who arrived earlier this month.

The group will undertake work such as repair and maintenance of roads and bridges.

An additional 230 personnel are set to be deployed on April 10, bringing the total number to around 680, Japan's largest-ever deployment in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The deployment is also Japan's first under a new bill allowing the nation's military to play a broader role in such peacekeeping operations.

The bill, passed late last year, allows Japanese troops to join U.N. forces on missions such as separating warring factions, overseeing the laying down of arms and removing landmines.

The bill also eases restrictions on the use of weapons, a sensitive topic for Japan, which is barred from settling international disputes by military means under its pacifist constitution.

Specifically, Japanese troops will now be allowed to use weapons to defend peacekeepers and refugees as well as to protect weapons and ammunition belonging to Japan.

A 1992 law had limited Japanese participation to non-combat roles such as building bridges and monitoring elections.

The Japanese military has had non-combat roles in U.N. operations in Cambodia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Indonesia and the Golan Heights.

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