Tokyo: For the first time since World War II ended, Japanese troops deployed overseas can fire to rescue or defend allies effective Monday.
The troops were barred from firing owing to a historic and controversial legislative reform carried out in 2015.
The contingent of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in South Sudan, the only peacekeeping mission in which Japan is involved, would begin operating under the new guidelines, Efe news reported.
This would allow them to rescue and defend UN peacekeeping personnel, who were being held hostage or were under attack.
The South Sudan mission had generated controversy in Japan, where the opposition said the troops might be involved in military actions that violated the pacifist Japanese constitution.
Until now, Article 9 of the constitution, adopted by Japan during the American occupation following its defeat in the World War II, forbade it from using force to resolve conflicts.
It only allowed Japan to use force to defend itself — and did not allow its troops to fight abroad.
The reform, which aims to allow Japan a more active role in the sphere of multilateral security, would now allow the SDF to undertake the same peacekeeping missions as other countries, a government spokesperson said.
Since 2012, Japan sent ground units of its military to build roads and other infrastructure in South Sudan as part of the UNMISS mission of the UN.
The new unit, comprising 350 troops (of which 60 belong to the garrison dedicated to rescue and assistance operations) would be sent to Juba.