Duterte Nixes Invitation to Visit JS Izumo, Japan’s Helicopter Carrier
The Philippines' communist-leaning president Rodrigo Duterte has declined an invitation to visit the helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) when this warship visits his country some time in the next three months.
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In a blatant challenge to China, Japan has deployed the Izumo, its largest warship, and a warship escort to show-the-flag in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The deployment of the Izumo and its naval squadron will be Japan's biggest show of naval force in Asia since World War II.
Sources told Japanese media the aim of the deployment is to test the capability of the Izumo, which was launched in March 2015, by sending it out on an extended mission. The Izumo will train with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea.
Japan has invited the pro-China Duterte to visit the Izumo when she visits Subic Bay, some 100 km northwest of Manila, according to sources cited by Philippine media.
Asked if he planned to visit the Izumo, Duterte replied, "If I have time," a reply that can be equated to a diplomatic "No" considering Duterte has no intention of angering his patron, China.
As to his views about the Izumo's forthcoming trip, Duterte said, "I have invited all of them," but without explaining what this reply meant.
"It is international passage, the South China Sea is not our territory, but it is part of our entitlement," said Duterte of his decision to embrace China and not pursue his country's rightful claim that China violated its sovereignty by seizing islands within its exclusive economic zone.
On the other hand, China threatened a firm response if Japan causes trouble in the South China Sea.
"If Japan persists in taking wrong actions, and even considers military interventions that threaten China's sovereignty and security... then China will inevitably take firm responsive measures," said China's Foreign Ministry.
China said it was still waiting for an official explanation as to why Japan plans to send the Izumo and her escorts on a show of force through the South China Sea.
The Izumo is officially classified by Japan as a "helicopter destroyer" whose main mission is anti-submarine warfare. For this purpose, she carries up to nine helicopters but can be outfitted to launch and recover the Lockheed Martin F-35B stealth fighter, the short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) version of the fighteroperated by the U.S. Marines.
The second and only other ship in the Izumo-class is the JS Kaga (DDH-184), which was launched in August 2015.
Both warships can deploy up to 28 aircraft, or 14 larger aircraft (probably F-35s and Bell-Boeing V-22 Ospreys). Currently, however, the Izumo carries only seven anti-submarine warfare helicopters and two sea air rescue helicopters. Both warships are also equipped to carry 400 troops and their equipment.