The initial contingent of Japanese military ground forces departed Thursday for war-wracked Cambodia, inaugurat-ing Japan's participation in an overseas U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Thirty-four members of the Self-Defense Force along with 23 vehicles loaded on two transport ship and a supply vessel left the port of Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture while protesters shouted objections from small boats to the first deployment of ground troops abroad since World War II.Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa said at his official residence in Tokyo the departure was an important step for Japan in increasing its contributions to world peace.