TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s coast guard says it is searching for an army helicopter carrying 10 crew members that went missing off a southern Japanese island.
The coast guard said it received information that a Ground Self-Defense Force UH-60JA Black Hawk helicopter disappeared from radar on a mission Thursday evening in an area north of Miyako island.
It said four patrol ships are participating in the search but have not found any traces of the missing aircraft.
The disappearance near the Japanese island came as the country is aggressively beefing up its defense in the region in response to China’s increasingly assertive military activity in the regional seas, where tension is also rising around Taiwan.
Kyodo News said Japanese coast guard ships found traces of oil and debris that may be related to the missing helicopter, but officials declined to confirm the report.
The Ground Self-Defense Force, or Japanese army, said the helicopter belongs to a base in Kumamoto prefecture on Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu and was visiting Miyako island on a surveillance mission.
NHK public television said the helicopter disappeared from radar about an hour after it departed from a base on Miyako island and about half an hour before its scheduled return.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the Defense Ministry is investigating and “We will do our utmost to save their lives.”