TOKYO: Japan said Thursday it will send a military helicopter unit to help the relief effort following Pakistan's devastating floods.
Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa ordered the defence forces Thursday to prepare for the dispatch in response to a request from the Pakistani government, his ministry said in a statement.
Japan is expected to send a unit of six transport helicopters and more than 300 troops on the relief mission, Kyodo news agency said.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told reporters that an advance team of about 20 officers were to leave for Pakistan on Thursday.
Okada said the Japanese troops were likely to operate in southern Pakistan, where the security situation is relatively stable, to provide food and medicines and transport people as part of international relief efforts.
“We have also borne in mind the importance of Pakistan in considering the problems of Afghanistan which is said to be a hotbed of terrorism,” Okada said.
He said the United States had also “unofficially” asked Japan to aid Pakistan.
A Japanese government fact-finding team has visited Pakistan since Friday to assess the country's needs, the security situation and other conditions, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Tokyo has already extended 14.4 million dollars worth of emergency aid to help Pakistan cope with the disaster.
Pakistan has endured its worst floods in 80 years since late July, with millions of people affected by the deluge, prompting UN chief Ban Ki-moon to urge the world to step up international aid.
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