GSDF choppers Pakistan-bound

Kyodo News

Ground Self-Defense Force helicopters will be sent to flood-hit Pakistan to provide disaster relief, government officials said Wednesday.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa is expected to instruct the GSDF to start preparations Thursday and order the dispatch Friday.

The decision came as Prime Minister Naoto Kan met with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Senior Vice Defense Minister Kazuya Shimba after a fact-finding mission of the Foreign and Defense ministries arrived in Pakistan.

It meets an earlier U.S. request for Japanese measures to cover shortages of helicopters for transportation of flood-affected people and relief supplies.

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Osamu Fujimura said the GSDF helicopter dispatch and emergency grant aid of up to $13 million to Pakistan will be presented at Thursday’s special session of the U.N. General Assembly, the Foreign Ministry said.

The helicopter unit is expected to consist of six UH-1 utility and CH-47 carrier helicopters and more than 300 troops.

The recent floods in Pakistan have left more than 1,600 people dead and 14 million displaced.