Japan’s Largest Warship Carrier Will Conduct Exercise in South China Sea: Report
Japan plans to send its largest warship carrier for a long naval exercise tour that will see it travel across several important Asian regions including the disputed South China Sea region. The three-month-long tour that is set to begin in May is being touted as Tokyo's biggest show of naval strength in the region since World War II.
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The Izumo helicopter carrier, which was inducted into the Japanese navy only two years back, will make a stop in Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and India. It will also make a brief stop in the South China Sea, where it will conduct a naval exercise along with the U.S.
"The aim is to test the capability of the Izumo by sending it out on an extended mission," said one source familiar with the matter, who added that the warship carrier "will train with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea" and will return to Japan in August.
The Japanese government has so far declined to comment on the report.
Meanwhile, reports suggest that Tokyo plans to invite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte when the Izumo carrier halts at Subic Bay, located almost 100 km west of the capital city of Manila. However, Duterte has not confirmed whether he will visit the warship carrier at the Subic Bay, adding that the visit will materialize only if he finds time.
Although Japan does not have any claim in the South China Sea, it is seeking to remain dominant in the disputed maritime region mainly through military exercises. It has so far carried out several joint military exercises in the highly contentious region.
Tokyo's desire for domination in the disputed region stems from its acrimonious relationship with China. Japan is locked in a maritime dispute with China over East China Sea region.
The news about Japan's ambitious naval exercise comes at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump administration is believed to be busy preparing policies to counter Beijing's moves in the South China Sea region.