SDF Have Expanded the Scope of Their Activities

The Self-Defense Forces can be said to have fulfilled their difficult mission of evacuating Japanese nationals from areas where fighting is taking place. It is important to analyze the mission so that they can utilize the experience in future assignments.

The government has announced that all Japanese nationals and their spouses, among others, who wished to leave the Sudanese capital of Khartoum have been evacuated. About 60 Japanese nationals, including embassy staff and employees of the Japan International Cooperation Agency and others, had been staying in Sudan.

An Air Self-Defense Force transport plane that had been dispatched to Djibouti rescued Japanese nationals and others in Port Sudan in eastern Sudan and transported them to Djibouti. Others were evacuated to Ethiopia and other countries with the cooperation of France and the International Red Cross.

Protecting the lives and property of one’s own citizens is the greatest responsibility of a country.

When Islamist forces seized control of all of Afghanistan in 2021, the Japanese government’s coordination of rescue operations took a long time and the dispatch of SDF aircraft to Afghanistan was delayed.

This time, the Defense Ministry formulated a rescue plan for Japanese nationals based on information gathered by the Foreign Ministry, and then the National Security Secretariat compiled the overall plan, according to the government. It was the first case in which each ministry and agency concerned communicated and played its own role.

Regarding the SDF’s activities overseas, the government has so far established legislation and reviewed policies based on responses to various events.

Security-related laws have eased standards for the SDF’s use of weapons, allowing personnel to fire warning shots in order to carry out their missions. Based on lessons learned in the Afghanistan case, the government has also revised the requirements for dispatching SDF aircraft overseas. In some respects, the review of security-related legal frameworks in a way that is more in line with reality has made the current mission possible.

At the same time, however, there were some issues left. The SDF were not involved in the transfer of Japanese nationals from Khartoum to Port Sudan, about 670 kilometers away from the capital, so Japan had to rely on other countries and organizations for their transfer. The SDF need to verify whether there were any problems with the information gathering system and their operations.

The situation in Sudan does not allow for optimism. Many civilians have been killed or injured in the fighting between the national army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group.

The fact that the national army and the RSF have agreed to a ceasefire, albeit a temporary cessation, is probably due to the international community’s strong demand for one.

Japan must cooperate with the countries concerned and make all possible diplomatic efforts toward peace in Sudan. As the chair of the Group of Seven advanced nations, Japan needs to take the lead in discussing an early end to the conflict and humanitarian assistance at next month’s G7 summit.

There is also a view that the Russian private military company Wagner is involved in the Sudanese civil war and is providing weapons to the RSF.

Actions that encourage conflict will not be tolerated. The international community must cooperate and put a stop to these moves.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 26, 2023)