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News Navigator: What are 'rush and rescue' missions?

The government is considering ordering Self-Defense Force (SDF) troops participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan to perform so-called "rush and rescue" missions. The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about rush and rescue missions.

    Question: What are rush and rescue missions that the SDF may perform during peacekeeping operations?

    Answer: Such missions would be performed if staff of the United Nations, other international organizations or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were in a dangerous situation, such as being surrounded by rioters or militants. If SDF troops deployed to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations were asked for help, SDF members armed with weapons would rush to the scene in order to rescue people in danger. However, South Sudan's security organizations and other countries' infantry units responsible for maintaining order in the country are supposed to first receive such requests. In cases where these organizations could not respond or the SDF could rescue victims more swiftly, the SDF would receive such requests.

    Q: There have been fears that the risk to SDF personnel would increase if they were to perform rush and rescue missions, haven't there?

    A: Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told the Diet that the risks to SDF members would never heighten. However, some SDF members think that their risks would certainly increase if they were to perform rush and rescue missions. A retired member of the Ground Self-Defense Force has publicly said that the chance of SDF members encountering danger might heighten if SDF troops were to be given a new mission they have yet to experience.

    Q: What are the differences between new "rush and rescue" missions and other missions that the SDF has been performing?

    A: The scope of situations in which SDF members can use weapons would expand. SDF personnel have so far been allowed to use weapons only in cases where they need to defend themselves and people around them. In rush and rescue missions, however, SDF members would be allowed to use weapons to remove barricades or force those surrounding people the SDF is supposed to rescue to retreat. Such new missions could not be fulfilled unless SDF personnel were to be allowed to use weapons more broadly, which has led to concerns that the risks to SDF members would heighten.

    Q: What are the chances that the SDF would be ordered to perform rush and rescue missions?

    A: Troops that are to be deployed to South Sudan this coming November to replace those currently participating in peacekeeping operations are being trained to perform rush and rescue missions, and preparations to perform such missions are nearly completed. Whether to allow the SDF to perform rush and rescue missions depends on the government's evaluation of the situation in South Sudan. (Answers by Naritake Machida, City News Department)

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