Japan plans to send forces to Sinai Peninsula

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The government plans to send Ground Self-Defense Force members to the Sinai Peninsula in eastern Egypt to monitor a ceasefire between the Israeli and Egyptian militaries as part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), multiple government sources said.

This would be the first time for the government to apply new provisions on internationally coordinated operations for peace and security (see below) that were part of the security-related laws that went into force in March 2016. The deployment could happen as early as spring.
 The government decided to respond to a request from the MFO because it believes helping maintain the ceasefire between Israel and Egypt is important to ensure a stable supply of energy from the Middle East, which Japan relies on for energy.
 A four-minister meeting of the National Security Council is expected to be held soon to make a final decision on the deployment.
 The plan would involve sending two GSDF members to the MFO’s local command post in Sharm El-Sheikh on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
 The two members would serve in liaison and coordination roles. The government is working with the MFO to move the deployment up from around summer, which is what was initially envisioned, the sources said.
 The government has been considering dispatching GSDF members to the MFO since last year, though the request for headquarters staff was announced Jan. 22.
 To confirm the local security situation, Kentaro Sonoura, a special advisor to the prime minister in charge of national security, visited Sharm El-Sheikh, an MFO base in northern Sinai Peninsula and other sites on Feb. 2-3.
 Sonoura observed the base’s safety policies, including its robust protective measures, and found the area around Sharm El-Sheikh to be stable, based on which the government determined the GSDF members would be safe there.
 Since the GSDF’s engineering unit pulled out of U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan in May 2017, Japan’s contribution to those operations has been limited to maintaining a few SDF members as command post staff in South Sudan. The government hopes that by taking part in the MFO, which is an internationally coordinated operation for peace and security that resembles PKO, it can demonstrate its willingness to make international contributions to observers both at home and abroad.
 The MFO has been on the Sinai Peninsula since 1982, after Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979 following the end of the Middle East war.

■ Internationally coordinated operations for peace and security
  Activities related to humanitarian assistance, ensuring security and other areas that are not under the auspices of the United Nations. To broaden Japan’s international contributions, such activities were included in the revised U.N. Peacekeeping Activities Cooperation Law, which is a pillar of the security-related laws. Self-Defense Forces members can be deployed in response to requests from international organizations if five principles on PKO participation are met, including “Agreement on a cease-fire shall have been reached among the parties to armed conflicts.”

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