Subject: KY: Japan to keep peacekeeping unit in E. Timor until spring 2004

August 17, 2002 Saturday

Japan to keep peacekeeping unit in E. Timor until spring 2004

DILI, Aug. 17

Visiting Japanese Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani indicated Saturday that Japan will continue to engage Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) personnel in U.N. peacekeeping operations in East Timor until the spring of 2004, Japanese officials said.

Nakatani revealed the plan at a meeting with officials of the U.N. Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) including deputy representative Sukehiro Hasegawa.

UNMISET is expected to complete its mission by the spring of 2004 and Japan will gradually scale down the size of its peacekeeping operation forces, the officials said.

According to the officials, Nakatani in the talks unveiled a new defense policy emphasizing diplomacy, including the Asian region, and aiming to improve the quality of defense by dispatching high-ranking officials and monitoring staff.

Specifically, the Japanese defense chief indicated his agency will study a plan to dispatch high-ranking officials to the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights.

Nakatani also suggested the agency will consider taking part in U.N. peacekeeping forces, which Japan is now allowed to engage in after abandoning its self-imposed ban last year by revising the law regulating participation in related operations.

In the meeting, Nakatani also expressed the intent to tackle the issue of peacekeeping operation actively.

He was quoted by the officials as saying, 'It became the 10th year for the dispatch of peacekeeping operations (since Japan made its first dispatch to Cambodia). Using this opportunity in East Timor as a turning point, I want to move to a next step.'

On a request from UNMISET for Japan to provide its facilities and equipment, Nakatani responded he will do the best that he can after consulting with concerned government ministries and agencies, the officials said.

Meanwhile, Nakatani also inspected a GSDF camp in the western part of Dili and encouraged personnel there.

'Your activities not only contributed to the independence of East Timor and established peace, but also to peace and stability in Asia and the Pacific region,' Nakatani said in a speech to GSDF members.

Nakatani is scheduled to meet President Xanana Gusmao, Roque Rodrigues, state secretary for East Timor's defense force, and other key government officials in the capital Dili on Monday.

He will then visit Australia and hold talks with Defense Minister Robert Hill in Canberra on Tuesday to exchange views on the possibility of U.S. attacks on Iraq and the situation in the Middle East.

Nakatani is scheduled to return to Japan on Wednesday.

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