Japan ends peacekeeping mission in war-ravaged South Sudan as it faces famine

Japan announced it was ending a peacekeeping mission in war-ravaged South Sudan even as the country faces famine caused by years of civil conflict.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Japan's 350-strong force would pull out in May amid concerns over the safety of troops in the world's newest country.

It comes as the UN warns that 270,000 children are suffering severe malnutrition and 1 million risk starvation as famine arrives in South Sudan - the first time the world has faced such a humanitarian crisis in six years.

The disaster has been caused by conflict which broke out in 2013, and has increasingly divided the country down sectarian lines.

Mr Abe said that his country would continue to send other assistance including food deliveries and humanitarian support.

The UN said 100,000 people were already starving. Credit: AP

The peacekeeping team had first arrived in November under an expanded mandate that allowed them to use force if necessary to protect civilians and UN staff.

The Japanese military's use of force is limited by its post-Second World War constitution.

South Sudan split from its neighbour Sudan and 2011, and was plunged into tribal violence two years later.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 has not stopped the fighting, and clashes last July between forces loyal to president Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar triggered further violence.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and forced 3.1 million to flee their homes.

The Security Council decided in August to send an additional 4,000 peacekeepers after clashes the previous month killed hundreds in South Sudan's capital Juba.