• Kyodo

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The Maritime Self-Defense Force landing ship Shimokita left its home port Tuesday in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, as part of Japan’s rear-area support for U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan.

It marks the first time Japan has sent an amphibious force ship under its antiterrorism law. The Shimokita’s designation is landing ship tank, meaning it can handle tanks.

Japan began offering the support after the United States launched military operations in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.

According to the MSDF, the 8,900-ton Shimokita will help transport construction equipment and Thai military personnel from Thailand to an unspecified country bordering the Arabian Sea.

MSDF officials said the construction equipment will eventually be taken to Afghanistan to help repair an air base used by the U.S. Air Force near Kabul.

Thailand earlier said it would send troops to Afghanistan to begin repair work.

The Shimokita can handle helicopters, and it has facilities for surgery. The ship can accommodate about 1,000 people.

It will rendezvous with its 4,550-ton MSDF destroyer escort Ikazuchi, which left its home port in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture on Monday.

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