Subject: XIN: Japan not to extend peacekeeping mission in East Timor

Japan not to extend peacekeeping mission in East Timor

May 3, 2004 7:47am

TOKYO, May 3, 2004 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Japan will withdraw Ground Self- Defense Force (GSDF) troops currently engaged in reconstruction assistance in East Timor, following the end of the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission there May 20, Kyodo News reported Monday.

This decision means more than 400 troops will start pulling out this month and finish the withdrawal in mid-June, Kyodo quoted government officials as saying.

The troops were deployed in March, 2002, under a UN resolution to help maintain stability and security. The South East Asia nation saw the ending of Indonesian control in October, 2001, and formally announced independence in May, 2002.

Sending troops abroad is a controversial issue in Japan in view of its pacifist constitution instituted after the World War II.

Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) began UN peacekeeping operations in 1990's and expanded its role after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States by providing logistic support for the US-led forces in the war on terror. About 550 ground troops are currently based in southern Iraq on reconstruction mission.

Debate relating to revising the Article 9 of the constitution is heating up, in which Japan is forbidden to keep military forces and take part in war. Opinions are divided on whether Japan should formally turn the SDF into an army and get more involved in international peacekeeping operations.

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