Massive SDF dispatch set for Philippine relief mission

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The Self-Defense Forces are planning what may be their largest overseas relief operation ever, involving some 1.000 service members, ships and aircraft to be sent to the Philippines to help survivors of last weekend’s super typhoon, the government said Thursday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the Philippine government formally requested that Japan dispatch SDF units for relief activities.

Based on the request, the government plans to send three warships, three CH-47 helicopters and a C-130 transport airplane, Defense Ministry officials said.

The three ships are the 13,950-ton destroyer Ise, 8,900-ton amphibious warfare vessel Osumi and 8,100-ton supply vessel Towada.

A KC-767 transport airplane of the Air Self-Defense Force has arrived in the Philippines and on Thursday was transporting medical equipment and other relief goods from Manila to Cebu in response to the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the island nation late last week, Suga said.

Some 50 SDF members had been dispatched to the Philippines as of Thursday. Medical staff planned to start providing treatment in Cebu later in the day, Suga said.

Although the timing of the departure has yet to be set, the unusually quick decision by the government can be attributed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy pledge to make Japan a “proactive contributor” to world peace.