• Kyodo

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Armed Self-Defense Forces units are taking part in this week’s Proliferation Security Initiative drill in the South China Sea aimed at preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The deployment marks the first time the SDF has sent armed personnel to take part in PSI exercises overseas, Japanese officials said at a ceremony Monday to open the five-day multilateral exercise.

It is the first PSI drill in Southeast Asia.

Code-named Exercise Deep Saber, the Singapore-hosted drill involves 13 members of the PSI. It is being held in the city-state and in the South China Sea.

The initiative was proposed by U.S. President George W. Bush and launched in May 2003. Sixteen exercises have been held since then.

Although Japan has taken part in earlier exercises, this is the first time the Maritime Self-Defense Force has deployed a combat unit.

The MSDF contingent includes 340 armed personnel, the 5,200-ton destroyer Shirane, two P-3C antisubmarine patrol aircraft and two helicopters. The Japan Coast Guard has dispatched about 90 personnel and the patrol vessel Shikishima.

It is one of the largest such drills ever held in the South China Sea.

Taking part are some 2,000 naval, coast guard and other service members, 10 vessels and six aircraft from Japan, the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia and Singapore.

Malaysia, Pakistan, Vietnam and Brunei are taking part as observers at the invitation of Singapore.

On Monday, the Japanese team demonstrated to journalists its prowess in overpowering suspects during a mini-drill aboard the Shirane while berthed at Changi Naval Base, Singapore’s largest.

In the short drill under a noon sun, 17 armed commandos in black gear chased after two men acting as suspects on deck, overpowered them and removed a pistol from one of them.

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