U.S. begins flying Japanese non-lethal military aid to Ukraine

TOKYO (Reuters) - A U.S. Air Force cargo jet began shipping on Wednesday helmets and other non-lethal military kit donated by Japan to Ukraine, marking the first time an American aircraft has carried Japanese Self Defense Force gear to another country.

A C-17 transport jet flew from the United States to touch down at the Yokota air base near Tokyo, and pick up three truckloads of plastic-wrapped boxes. Japan's government declined to list the equipment inside.

"We won U.S. military support to use their planes so we are sending them on those aircraft so the equipment can arrive as soon as possible," said Makoto Oniki, Japan's vice minister of defence.

He spoke at the U.S. military's Asian air transport hub as ground crews behind him loaded the cargo onto the C-17, which can carry about 77 tons.

Japan has followed its ally, the United States, and other Western industrialised nations in imposing tough sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

It fears the attack, described by President Vladimir Putin as a "special operation", threatens international norms and could embolden neighbouring China to use its military in East Asia.

"Japan's loud voice has made this a global response, because what happens in Ukraine does not stay in Ukraine," the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, said at the Yokota event.

Emanuel and Oniki were joined by the deputy chief of Ukraine's embassy in Tokyo, Oleksandr Semeniuk, who described Russia as neo-Nazi.

Japan, which renounced the right to wage war after its World War Two defeat, follows strict rules that ban weapon exports to conflict zones or countries not subject to United Nations resolutions.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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