For the first time since WWII, Japanese soldier dies on Philippine soil

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Japanese soldier
Japanese troops taking part in the joint military exercises last week.

A serving Japanese soldier has died on Philippine soil for the first time since World War Two.

The country’s military confirmed today (Sunday, October 7) that one of its sevicemen was killed in a car crash during joint exercises with US and Filipino troops.

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Suguru Maehara, a 38-year-old sergeant of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces (GSDF), was involved in the accident on Tuesday last week.

Speaking to Agence France Presse, a GSDF spokesman said: “It is the first time a GSDF member has died during an overseas drill.” 

The Japanese soldier was delivering food supplies when the accident took place.

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The joint military exercises being conducted by the United States, Japan, and the Philippines are codenamed Kamandag, meaning ‘Venom’. The event marked the first time that Japanese armoured military vehicles have been deployed on foreign soil since the country adopted a pacifist constitution after its 1945 defeat.

However, Japan has not been involved in the combat component of the military exercises that were launched at Subic Bay International Airport last Monday.

Local media reported that Maehara was in a vehicle driven by a Philippine man near the nearby naval base.

Another Japanese officer in his 40s who was in the same vehicle was injured with a broken rib. He was sent to a hospital with Maehara but was discharged on the same day, the GSDF spokesman said.

A Philippine spokesman for the exercises declined to comment.

Despite President Duterte’s frequent tirades against Washington, the Philippines has ramped up military cooperation in recent years with the USA, its long-time ally. It also held joint naval exercises with Japan near Scarborough Shoal in 2015.

Japan has its own maritime territorial dispute with Beijing in the East China Sea, where China has built artificial islands and installed military facilities on them.

The US military stressed that Saturday’s exercise was not aimed at Beijing.

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