Japan is set to withdraw its troop from the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan by the end of May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday.
The Japanese mission in the war-tone country has been to build infrastructure for the past five years.
“As South Sudan’s nation-building reaches a new stage, I assessed that the Self Defense Force’s construction and maintenance work in Juba has reached an appropriate point to end,” Abe told reporters.
The withdrawal will ease political pressure on Abe who vowed to resign if any troops were killed. His support among voters has also been dwindling after his wife was accused of involvement in a murky land deal.
Terminating the mission will also help Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, who rejected opposition calls to resign because she refused to describe the conflict as “fighting.”
In a move that stoked controversy in Japan, the contingent was allowed, from November, to mount rescue missions and escort U.N. staff and personnel of non-government bodies (NGO).
That was in line with a 2015 security law pushed by Abe that expanded the SDF’s overseas role, a change critics say has weakened Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.
By Michael Oduor