The National Police Agency plans to deploy large helicopters to prefectural police forces in Okinawa and Fukuoka to transport officers to remote islands and assist in disaster rescue operations, sources said Tuesday.

With the aim of deploying one such helicopter to each of the two police departments in fiscal 2020, the NPA sought ¥3.13 billion in its budget request for fiscal 2018, including funding for security and disaster-relief equipment.

According to the agency, prefectural police forces are mostly equipped with small- and medium-sized helicopters. There are only two large-size helicopters that accommodate 20 to 30 people each, and both belong to Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department.

Currently, large contingents of police officers are forced to travel to remote border areas aboard Japan Coast Guard patrol ships, including operations around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islets are administered by Japan, but also claimed by China where they are called the Diaoyus.

The NPA plans to introduce the large helicopters in order to improve its capability of transporting contingency response officers and other personnel in times of emergencies or when Japan’s sovereignty is challenged in locations such as the Senkakus, the sources said.

The agency envisions the large helicopters being used in such situations where armed groups or large numbers of displaced people land on remote islands. The helicopters are also expected to be used for rescue operations in the aftermath of massive natural disasters, including earthquakes and heavy rains.

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