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Iran tensions

Japan sends patrol planes to Middle East amid Iran crisis

Destroyer to follow early next month to protect sea lanes

Family members send off a Maritime Self-Defense Force mission to the Middle East at Naha Base in Okinawa on Saturday. (Photo by Kohei Sakai)

TOKYO -- Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force dispatched two P-3C patrol aircraft to the Middle East Saturday, embarking on a mission to collect information to ensure the safety of vessels traveling to Japan through sea lanes near the Arabian Peninsula.

Sent off by family members, the P-3Cs left a MSDF base in Okinawa Prefecture. A helicopter-equipped destroyer will also make the voyage on Feb. 2.

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