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Politics

Japan expands peacekeeping support in Africa and ASEAN

Medical and construction training aims to counter rising Chinese influence

Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force provided training to local troops in Cambodia as "capacity-building support."

TOKYO -- Japan's Self-Defense Forces will provide more support for United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa and Southeast Asia this fiscal year amid Tokyo's concerns about China's growing presence on such missions.

Ground Self-Defense Force personnel have been deployed to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi since 2015 to train Kenyan and Tanzanian soldiers on operating heavy construction machinery such as bulldozers. Japan will set up a base in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this fiscal year to provide similar training to Vietnamese and Thai forces.

The Japanese government earmarked about 4.5 billion yen ($40.6 million) in a fiscal 2017 supplementary budget to expand these types of operations.

A GSDF team will go to Uganda to instruct medical personnel from the region on emergency wound treatment. With more than 100 people killed on U.N. peacekeeping missions each year, individuals who can administer first aid appropriately are needed, Japan's Foreign Ministry says.

The SDF began dispatching personnel to support peacekeeping operations in 1992, with a mission in Cambodia. But since May 2017, its participation has been limited to just four officers in South Sudan.

Japan intends to focus on training and other "capacity-building assistance" in order to keep its troops safe, given the unstable conditions at the sites of the U.N.'s 14 current peacekeeping operations.

China has assumed a growing role in such operations since the 2000s in an effort to expand its influence in Africa, with about 2,600 troops participating as of January 2018, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry. Tokyo hopes to use the support provided by the SDF to strengthen its ties with African and Southeast Asian nations.

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