A Japanese ground self-defense force unit has been allowed to participate in armed rescue missions in South Sudan, beginning Monday, according to local press reports. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
TOKYO, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Japan's self-defense forces have been allowed to use firearms and other weapons in peacekeeping missions in South Sudan.
According to Japanese television network NHK on Monday, a 350-member ground self-defense force unit has been granted new duties as a rescue squad in accordance with security legislation ratified in 2015.
The bill allows the country's military to fight in overseas missions and was a historic shift for the country's pacifist constitution, established after the end of World War II.
Japanese troops are currently responsible for monitoring the situation in South Sudan and when necessary to mobilize forces in conflict zones, according to the report.
The latest military unit arrived in the country on Nov. 21 and officially took over the mission on Monday, Tokyo time.
In addition to functioning as a rescue unit, the troops can play a part in the "joint protection" of camps when under attack, a role it was unable to play in previous deployments.
Japanese law now allows its military to serve in overseas missions whenever it or a close ally is attacked.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the new measures are being taken after the troops had "gone through substantial education and training" for performing the new tasks, according to Kyodo news agency.
"I believe they will be able to carry out their jobs without any difficulty," Suga said Monday.
Suga also addressed an issue between Tokyo and Beijing over claims Japan's fighter jets had participated in "dangerous and unprofessional behavior" near Okinawa.
China has stated Japanese aircraft on Saturday had harassed and shot decoy projectiles at Chinese air force planes, The Japan Times reported Monday.
"I have received a report that the Japanese planes did not conduct any close-range interference against the Chinese military planes," Suga said. "That China's military unilaterally announced something clearly different from the facts is extremely regrettable and harms improving ties between Japan and China."