Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa has told Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada he “doesn’t want to do the Sudan thing”. That “thing” is dispatching 4 CH-47 helicopters and 300 personnel to move ballots and election supervisors during the upcoming Sudanese elections.

Total cost to move 4 heavy lift helicopters and 300 personnel from Japan to the Sudan, and then keep them fed and fueled for two months: $112 million dollars.

The Ministry of Defense is also concerned the environment won’t be safe enough for the SDF personnel to operate in.

The Foreign Ministry is pushing strongly for the mission to go ahead. The two ministries are so far apart that Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to have to make the final decision.

Japan has been sending SDF officers to the U.N. Mission in Sudan since October 2008 and was planning to significantly ramp up its commitment for next year’s referendum. The four helicopters would play a vital role in transporting ballot boxes and election supervisors in areas with poor or non-existent road links.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan said in its manifesto for the Lower House election in August last year that it would contribute to U.N. peacekeeping operations. Sudan had been seen as the most likely mission. (Link)

$112 million dollars is a ridiculous amount of money. For a tenth of that you could probably get half a dozen Africa-based helicopters with Ukrainian crews to do the same job for you. (That is, when they’re not moving foreign aid, weapons, and blood diamonds.) I know that everything Japan does is expensive, but even this sounds outrageous.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch