On Monday, the first contingent of Japan’s largest overseas aid deployment departed for the typhoon-ravaged Philippines. The group consists of two warships, carrying some 650 troops and a complement of six helicopters, and left from the western port of Kure. The ships are scheduled to arrive on station in the Philippines on Friday, according to a defense ministry spokesman. The spokesman also added that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are sending a total of 10 planes on Monday to the disaster-struck nation – seven C-130 transport planes, two KC-767 tanker planes and one U-4 multi-purpose support aircraft.
The Japanese troops’ duties will include providing medical support and transporting relief goods. Last week, an advance team of about 50 SDF personnel was sent to observe and prep for the deployment, which is expected to rise to almost 1,200 troops in all. The timeline for sending the remainder of the troops was not immediately clear. It is the first time Japanese troops have been active in Leyte – the area hit the hardest by Super Typhoon Haiyan – since the islands were colonized by the Japanese in World War II and turned into one of the war’s biggest battlegrounds when U.S. forces pushed for counter-invasion in 1944.
The 1,180-strong contingent will be the largest single relief operation team ever sent abroad by Japan’s defense forces. Previous overseas missions by the SDF, which adheres to the country’s post-war pacifist constitution, have usually numbered in the hundreds, with the largest contingent of 925 personnel previously sent to Sumatra in 2006 after the Indonesian island was ravaged by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami. Other deployments have included UN peace-keeping missions in Cambodia and East Timor as well as logistical activities in Iraq and naval refueling operations in the Indian Ocean to back the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
[via Straits Times]