Japanese Cabinet oks plan to dispatch SDF to quake-hit Haiti

By NNN-Kyodo,

Tokyo : The Cabinet on Friday endorsed a specific plan about Japan’s dispatch of Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel to quake-hit Haiti to engage in UN peacekeeping operations, prompting some 160 SDF members to depart for the Caribbean nation on Saturday.

Under the plan, a 350-member unit will engage in the UN mission on a steady basis until November 30.

The unit consists mainly of SDF engineers who will help reconstruction work in the quake-devastated country, and includes three civilians who will examine the quake resistance of buildings.

Senior Vice Defense Minister Kazuya Shimba told reporters the SDF unit will be based in somewhere between the capital Port-au-Prince and Leogane, about 40 kilometers west of the city, and is expected to swiftly begin removing rubble, repairing roads and building facilities.

Those engaged in the peacekeeping operations will carry rifles, handguns and machine guns to defend themselves. About 30 personnel will guard the unit’s camp, Shimba said.

However, he added that security conditions in Haiti are now basically stable.

The dispatch of the SDF unit is in response to a UN Security Council resolution adopted January 19, which calls for boosting peacekeeping operations in Haiti following the January 12 quake. The mission is known as MINUSTAH, which is the French acronym for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

For the reconstruction work, Japan plans to transport some 150 vehicles including bulldozers, hydraulic shovels, trucks and trailers aboard a chartered plane, the first batch of which will arrive in Haiti next Wednesday local time, according to Shimba.

Separately, an SDF medical team consisting of about 100 members has been extending support to quake victims in Leogane since January 23.