The government decided Monday to supply ammunition to U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan, paving the way for Japan to provide such supplies to other countries' militaries or U.N. forces for the first time.
Following a request by the United Nations, Japan will provide as soon as Monday 10,000 bullets without charge to South Korean troops taking part in a U.N. peacekeeping operation in the fledgling African country, government officials said.
Citing urgency and humanitarian needs, the government has decided to make an exception to Japan's arms embargo, the officials said.
According to the Defense Ministry, the United Nations asked the Japanese government on Sunday to provide ammunition to South Korean troops guarding U.N. facilities in eastern South Sudan, saying the troops and refugees would be in danger without Japan's support.
Armed militias were approaching U.N. facilities to which refugees fled, it said.
The Japanese law governing peacekeeping operations says the government can provide supplies, with Cabinet approval, as part of its cooperation in U.N. activities.
But because the government so far had not envisaged supplying ammunition or weapons based on the law, it plans to issue a statement by the chief Cabinet secretary soon to explain the exceptional measure for the South Korean troops.
On Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the situation in South Sudan with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and decided to provide the bullets.
The decision was subsequently approved by other members of the Cabinet.
In Seoul, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said the country has filed a similar request to the United States, though the situation in eastern South Sudan is not as tense as in north of the country where fighting between government forces and rebels has occurred.
Referring to Japan's supply of ammunition, Yonhap News Agency said Japan could use the case to stress the legitimacy of Abe's initiative to make Japan a proactive contributor to global peace and prosperity.