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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 09:44 GMT
Japan commits troops to East Timor
Unrest in East Timor
East Timor was ravaged by violence in August 1999
Japan is to send 690 peacekeepers to East Timor, its largest ever such deployment of troops.

The foreign ministry said the soldiers' duties would mainly concern engineering and construction projects.

The force, which for the first time will include female personnel, is expected to arrive in the East Timorese capital, Dili, on 4 March. They will be armed with light weapons and machine guns.

East Timor is scheduled to assume full independence on 20 May - it is currently under UN administration.

The territory voted in 1999 for independence from Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

Japan's constitution forbids it from sending troops into combat overseas. Its peacekeepers can use their weapons to defend themselves only if they are attacked.

Japanese peacekeepers have previously been deployed in the Golan Heights, Mozambique and Cambodia.

Between 100,000 and 200,000 East Timorese are believed to have died during the 25-year occupation by Indonesia and at least 1,000 people were killed before and after the 1999 plebiscite.

See also:

09 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor chooses political system
21 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor launches truth commission
31 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
E Timor rights court installed
11 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
E Timor militiamen convicted
30 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: East Timor's 25 turbulent years
24 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: East Timor
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