Three Japanese military ships are heading for the Indian Ocean to support the U-S-led campaign against terrorism and provide aid to Afghan refugees.
Two vessels -- an eight-thousand-ton supply ship (Towada) and a five-thousand-ton minesweeper (Uraga) -- departed early today (Sunday). A third ship was scheduled to depart later in the day.
Three other Japanese ships were sent to the region earlier this month, marking the first dispatch of Japanese military overseas since end of the Second World War.
The move came several weeks after Japan's parliament approved a controversial bill to allow Japanese troops and naval vessels to provide non-combat logistical support and humanitarian aid in the U-S-led war on terrorism.
The nation's pacifist constitution forbids a combat role for Japanese troops except in self-defense.
On Tuesday, Japanese Defense Agency chief General Nakatani ordered the dispatch of the warships to gather information and scout sea lanes.
Sunday's development comes as Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka holds talks in Islamabad, Pakistan, on international efforts to rebuild Afghanistan after decades of war.