A Japanese destroyer left its base in Kanagawa Prefecture for the Middle East on Sunday to join the Maritime Self-Defense Force's first long-term intelligence-gathering mission abroad.

The 4,650-ton Takanami is scheduled to join the ongoing mission in late February. The mission commenced with the dispatch of MSDF P-3C patrol planes on Jan. 20, and is aimed at ensuring the safety of Japanese-related commercial shipping in the region, according to the government.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Taro Kono joined the families of the around 200 ship personnel at an event to send off the vessel at the MSDF's base in the city of Yokosuka.