Warships, 650 troops sent to help Philippines

AFP-JIJI

Japan on Monday dispatched two warships carrying some 650 troops to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, the first major contingent of its military’s largest overseas aid deployment.

The two vessels, also carrying six helicopters, left the port of Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, and are scheduled to arrive on Friday, said a Defense Ministry spokesman.

The Self-Defense Forces are sending 10 planes Monday to the disaster-struck nation — seven C-130 transports, two KC-767 tankers and one U-4 multipurpose support aircraft, he said.

The troops’ duties will include medical support and transport of relief supplies. An advance team of about 50 SDF troops was sent last week but the total was expected to rise to almost 1,200. The timeline for sending the remainer remains unclear.

It is the first time Japanese troops have been active in Leyte — an area hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan — since the island became one of the biggest battlegrounds of World War II when U.S. forces retook the area in 1944.

The 1,180-strong contingent will be the largest single relief team ever sent abroad by the SDF, which must work within the limits of the war-renouncing Constitution. Its previous missions usually numbered in the hundreds.

The previous record was 925 personnel sent in 2005 to Sumatra after the Indonesian island was ravaged by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami.