Subject: KY: Japan mulling possibility of dispatching coast guard to East Timor

Kyodo: Japan mulling possibility of dispatching coast guard to East Timor

Tokyo, Feb. 8 Kyodo - Japan is considering the possibility of dispatching its coast guard to East Timor to take part in the UN peacekeeping operations there, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Friday.

"East Timor is still a newborn country," Machimura told a press conference. "There is a need for coastal security, I believe, as (coastal security) is still very weak, and I believe there is something Japan can do to cooperate in some way in this area at the initial stage."

The top government spokesman said Cabinet members will discuss what assistance Japan can give to East Timor as well as other countries in need, given that Tokyo's participation in UN peace operations is limited.

"We will consider the matter carefully among related ministers, not only with regard to East Timor but also whether other possibilities exist, and make efforts so that our country's international presence as a peace cooperation state will be made as visible as possible," Machimura said.

He mentioned that the only UN peacekeeping operation mission in which Japan is currently involved is in the Golan Heights, where the Self-Defence Forces are participating in UN activities. The Japanese police recently returned after completing a one-year mission to help reform police management as part of the UN operation there.

If the dispatch to East Timor is realized, it would be the first time for the Japan Coast Guard to take part in UN peacekeeping activities.

East Timor gained independence from Indonesia in May 2002 with the assistance of the United Nations, but slipped into unrest last year when nearly 600 disgruntled soldiers were fired from the 1,400-member army.

Source: Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1030 gmt 8 Feb 08

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