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First permanent JSDF foreign base?

Grey Havoc

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Djibouti base 'in natl interests'

Hajime Furukawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Located in Djibouti, the Self-Defense Forces' first full-fledged overseas base is expected to allow the SDF to contribute more to the international community through peacekeeping operations and humanitarian activities.

Nineteen years have passed since the U.N. Peacekeeping Activities Cooperation Law was enacted in 1992 to dispatch SDF personnel to monitor a cease-fire in Cambodia and improve the nation's infrastructure.

"Times have changed beyond recognition," a senior official of the Defense Ministry said, recalling the time when sending SDF personnel overseas was widely opposed.

The SDF has participated in seven PKO missions, including the mission in Cambodia, which was its first. In February last year, SDF personnel were sent to Haiti shortly after a devastating earthquake hit the Caribbean country.

In early 2004, the Ground Self-Defense Force started dispatching troops to Iraq to help reconstruct the war-torn country.

Revisions of the Self-Defense Forces Law in 2006 enabled the SDF to perform PKO missions as one of its primary duties--a duty some say is as important as national defense.

The opening of the nation's first long-term overseas SDF base reflects changes in the security environment surrounding the SDF.

Djibouti, located on the Horn of Africa, is on the front line of the global fight against terrorism.

A senior Foreign Ministry official emphasized the opening of the base will serve the best interests of the nation.

"[Setting up the base] will make it easier [for the SDF] to cooperate with the U.S. forces, which emphasize counterterrorism operations," he said. "And there's rising demand for PKO in Africa and the Middle East. Being able to swiftly deploy SDF forces to trouble spots can contribute to [the security of] neighboring nations."

The Djibouti government also expects a great deal from the SDF.

When Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh visited Japan in December, he told Prime Minister Naoto Kan he would spare no effort in cooperating with SDF activities.

Another senior official of the Foreign Ministry said, "[Such an international contribution] will help win broad support for Japan's bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council." Japan needs the support of Africa's 53 nations to realize reform of the council.

The government's interpretation of the Constitution makes it impossible for the nation to exercise the right to collective self-defense and restricts SDF activities overseas. However, Japan's efforts to contribute to world peace should boost the SDF's international reputation.

(May. 29, 2011)

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110528002688.htm
 

Grey Havoc

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SDF readies overseas base in Djibouti / 1st outpost abroad to help fight piracy

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Self-Defense Forces will open its first full-fledged overseas base on Wednesday, a facility in Djibouti that will enable the SDF to beef up an antipiracy mission off Somalia that could continue for years, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The government plans to have the facility in northeastern Africa serve as a major base for future international contributions by the SDF in the Middle East and Africa, government officials said Saturday.

About 150 members of the Maritime Self-Defense and Ground Self-Defense forces, plus reinforcements of about 20 personnel, will be stationed at the base. The SDF will be responsible for security at the facility, government officials said.

The region around Djibouti has been a key arena in U.S. antiterrorism operations, so the SDF installation is expected to strengthen the bilateral Japan-U.S. alliance, the government officials said.

The SDF has been leasing part of a U.S. base in the capital, Djibouti city, for the past two years.

An administration building, dining hall, aircraft tarmac and a hanger for aircraft repair and maintenance have been built or are nearly completed at the SDF base, which is near the U.S. base.

A gymnasium large enough for SDF personnel to play futsal and other sports also has been built, according to the officials.

A senior Defense Ministry official said the facility is "intended to be used so we can conduct our activities in the region for about 10 years."

The facility will be the first de facto overseas base for stationing SDF personnel abroad.

Facing the Gulf of Aden next to Somalia, Djibouti is about 10,000 kilometers from Japan. Its strategic location made it an ideal choice to set up a base from which to conduct patrols and surveillance against pirates in the region.

Since the SDF's mission in the region is expected to continue for some time, the government decided to establish a base for Japanese personnel in that country, according to the government officials.

The new facility, built in line with the Antipiracy Countermeasures Law that was enacted in 2009, has "residential properties"--unlike conventional SDF camps abroad--that are hooked up to local utilities such as electricity and water supplies, according to the government officials.

SDF units previously dispatched to such countries as Cambodia and Iraq stayed no longer than two to three years. On those missions, the SDF units did not use local infrastructure, but instead provided their own electricity and water.

Construction of the SDF base reflects the likelihood that U.N. peacekeeping operations in the Middle East and Africa will continue for years, according to the government officials.

The base will serve as a relay point for SDF supplies and personnel, reducing the need to send transport aircraft whenever SDF personnel are dispatched on missions abroad, they said.

The government is scheduled to hold an opening ceremony for the base in Djibouti in late June, and plans to invite President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

Officially called Republic of Djibouti, the country has a territory of about 23,200 square kilometers--one-sixteenth of Japan's--and a population of about 820,000, about the same as Fukui Prefecture.

Formerly a French colony, Djibouti attained independence in 1977. Guelleh was reelected to a third term as president in April.

(May. 29, 2011)

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110528002667.htm
 
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