A Japanese military helicopter carrying 10 personnel has gone missing

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s coast guard says it is searching for a military helicopter carrying 10 crew members that went missing off a southern Japanese island.

The Coast Guard said a Ground Defense Force UH-60JA Black Hawk helicopter was reported missing from radar during a mission in an area north of Miyako Island on Thursday evening.

It said four patrol vessels were on a search mission but found no trace of the missing plane.

The disappearance occurred near the Japanese island in response to China’s increasingly assertive military actions in territorial waters that have heightened tensions around Taiwan.

Kyoto News said Japanese coast guard vessels had found traces of oil and debris associated with the missing helicopter, but officials declined to confirm the report.

The Ground Self-Defense Force, or Japanese military, said the helicopter belonged to a base in Kumamoto Prefecture on Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu and was visiting Miyako Island on a surveillance mission.

Public broadcaster NHK said the helicopter disappeared from radar an hour after taking off from a base on Miyako Island and half an hour before returning.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the Defense Ministry was investigating and “will do everything we can to save their lives.”

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