Subject: AFP: Japan to send 1,000 troops to East Timor next year

Japan to send 1,000 troops to East Timor next year

TOKYO, Nov 2 (AFP) - Japan will send just under 1,000 troops to East Timor to join UN peacekeeping operations in March next year, a news report said Friday.

The government would announce plans to send a fact-finding mission to East Timor in mid-November ahead of dispatching Ground Self-Defence Force soldiers to the island, Jiji Press news agency said.

Under the plan, Japanese troops would help to reconstruct roads and bridges with transport materials necessary to rebuild East Timor, it said.

The mission would be Japan's first large-scale deployment of SDF troops on an overseas peacekeeping operation since Tokyo sent 1,200 soldiers to Cambodia in 1992 and 1993.

But it was unlikely they would join the main UN peacekeeping force on the island, which is involved in patrolling the area and demobilising guerrilla forces.

Japanese law bans its troops from joining UN peacekeeping operations in areas where a ceasefire agreement is not in place.

A government spokesman declined to confirm the report. "We need to begin preparation soon if we want to send a large scale of troops to East Timor next year," said the spokesman, who declined to be named. "But we are not at a stage to confirm such a report."

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