PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The first Japanese troops to be sent on an overseas mission since World War II could be in Cambodia as early as mid-September, a senior Japanese official said Wednesday.
Jiro Hagi, deputy director of the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters, which opened in Tokyo Monday, arrived in Phnom Penh Wednesday to determine how and where Japanese troops could best be deployed in Cambodia as part of the U.N. peacekeeping operation.
Hagi said the Japanese contribution to the U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) will amount to about 730 military and civilian personnel, including an engineering battalion.
'Besides the engineers, we are goingto dispatch military observers and civil police, and possibly election monitors, so we'd like to talk with the UNTAC officials in charge of these,' he told reporters.
UNTAC was set up in March to disarm the four former warring Cambodian factions and prepare the country for elections scheduled for April next year under a peace agreement signed in Paris last October aimed at ending 13 years of conflict in Cambodia.
Thirty countries are participating in the $2.5 billion U.N. operation -- the largest ever undertaken by the United Nations -- but Germany and Japan are sending non-combat troops.
Japan is considering dispatching 600 military engineers, eight military observers, 75 civil police, and 50 civilians to help monitor the elections, Hagi said.
He said the first members of the Japanese contingent could arrive as early as mid-September.
Hagi said the engineers would most likely be involved in repairing highways 2 and 3, which run south and southwest of Phnom Penh respectively.
Hagi heads the second technical mission sent from Tokyo to Cambodia since the decision by the Japanese Parliament in June to allow Japanese troops to serve overseas on peacekeeping operations for the first time since World War II.