By Tatsuya Kimura / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent JOHANNESBURG — The Ground Self-Defense Force engineering unit that has been engaged in U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan began its withdrawal Monday, which will end the approximately five-year mission there that began in January 2012.
About 70 of the unit’s 350 members left the country Monday on private aircraft from the South Sudanese capital of Juba. They are scheduled to arrive at Aomori Airport on Wednesday.
The full pullout is scheduled to be completed by the end of May.
The unit has been engaged in such work as building roads in Juba. In November last year, it became the first unit to be assigned the task of “kaketsuke keigo” (rescue missions) based on the security-related laws.
The Japanese government decided on the withdrawal in March, saying that the operations had reached a certain juncture.
Peacekeeping operations in South Sudan have been positioned as international contributions to symbolize proactive pacifism. The pullout will mean there are no longer any SDF personnel involved in peacekeeping operations.