The Self-Defense Forces have conducted an exercise in Thailand simulating the evacuation of expatriates from a natural disaster.

The drill took place on Sunday at a military airfield in central Thailand. The scenario was an airlift of Japanese nationals in the aftermath of a major earthquake.

The exercise was conducted as part of a major multilateral military exercise in Southeast Asia involving mainly SDF personnel and Japanese Embassy staff.

About 170 people took part in the drill, at Utapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, 140 km southeast of Bangkok, officials said.

It involved driving expatriates to the airfield, where an Air Self-Defense Force C-130 cargo aircraft was waiting, the officials said.

It was the first-ever SDF drill overseas involving the transport of Japanese nationals by land after a revision to the SDF law to allow the use of land vehicles for evacuation missions.

A January 2013 hostage crisis at a gas plant in Algeria that left 10 Japanese nationals dead highlighted the limits of the previous rules, in which troops had to rely on Algerian authorities to drive the victims' bodies to a Japanese aircraft.

Japan is currently taking part in the Cobra Gold military drills sponsored jointly by Thailand and the United States. The exercise began on Feb. 9 and runs through Feb. 20.

Cobra Gold has taken place every year since 1982. This year, about 10,000 troops from 24 countries are taking part.