14 October 2011 – An assessment team from the Japan Ground Self Defence Force (GDSF) surveyed Juba International Airport today, as Japan mulls over the possibility of sending personnel to support the UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan.
The team, which arrived in South Sudan on 10 October, was in the new republic to assess South Sudanese airports and road network as Japan considers the deployment of 350 military officers to UNMISS.
"It's up to the Japan's government to come to a decision," said Team leader Lt. Col. Hidenori Ichigi, Staff Officer 1st Operation for Japan's Air Support Command. "For us, we came to do (an) assessment and will report back to our units. The unit will then recommend to the government whether to send in the peacekeepers or not."
On 11 October, the team visited Upper Nile State to assess airports and roads in the capital Malakal.
Malakal Airport looked good but roads appeared to be muddy and difficult to access during the rainy season, Lt. Col. Ichigi said in Juba on 13 October after the team's return from Upper Nile.
If deployed to South Sudan, the GSDF will consist of an engineering unit to help build infrastructure like roads and bridges in the country. Having gained independence on 9 July after two decades of civil war, South Sudan lacks basic infrastructure.
UNMISS is mandated to have 7,000 military personnel. This is the first time Japan has shown interest in sending peacekeepers to South Sudan. Similar units have provided support to peacekeeping operations in East Timor, Cambodia and Haiti.
Japan is the second largest contributor after the United States to the United Nations peacekeeping operations budget.