Japanese defense chief to visit Italy, South Sudan, Djibouti

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera will visit Italy, South Sudan and Djibouti over six days from Tuesday, his ministry said Friday.

After meeting with his Italian counterpart Roberta Pinotti to discuss bilateral defense cooperation, Onodera will become the first Japanese Cabinet minister to visit South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, where fighting has been raging since December between government troops and forces loyal to the former vice president.

In the South Sudan capital Juba, Onodera will meet with Japanese Self-Defense Forces troops participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations and check local security conditions.

He will also hold talks with Hilde Johnson, special representative of the U.N. secretary general, who heads the U.N. Mission in the Republic of South Sudan.

In Djibouti, Onodera will meet with SDF troops stationed in the country for antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.

The government is considering Djibouti as a possible hub for the SDF peacekeeping operations in Africa and the Middle East.