Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Japanese Helicopter Carrier JS Izumo Authorized to use Force to Protect US Navy Supply Ship

Escort duty

(Photo : JMSDF) JS Izumo.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) has sent its largest warship, the helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183), to escort a U.S. Navy supply ship transporting weapons, supplies and equipment to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), which will take-up station in the Sea of Japan off the Korean Peninsula  early this week.

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This is believed to be the first time JMSDF has deployed a warship to protect a U.S. Navy vessel. It was the U.S. Navy, however, that requested a JMSDF escort.

Upon orders of Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, the Izumo will depart the JMSDF's Yokosuka port in Kanagawa Prefecture on the morning of May 1. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has authorized the Izumo to use its weapons when necessary but "minimally" to ward-off attacks by either North Korea or China.

The defense ministry said the Izumo will rendezvous with the U.S. Navy supply ship in waters off the Boso Peninsula near Tokyo. Izumo has been ordered to safeguard the U.S. Navy supply ship until they both reach the Pacific side off Shikoku, one of the four main islands of Japan, located to the south of the Japanese archipelago.

The Carl Vinson entered the Sea of Japan through the Tsushima Strait between the Kyushu region and the Korean Peninsula on April 29. Sources said the supply ship will also re-supply a U.S. Navy spy ship monitoring North Korea.

The mission involving the Izumo is the first under the 2015 national security legislation. The prohibition on the use of weapons by the armed services comprising the Japan Self-Defense Force or JSDF (including the JMSDF) was relaxed under the revised Self-Defense Forces Law in tandem with the enactment of the new security legislation.

Under the revision, the JSDF armed services are allowed to use their weapons to protect U.S. forces and the armed forces of other countries cooperating with the JSDF, and that are engaged in activities contributing to the defense of Japan.

JSDF personnel can use their weapons during escort missions even in peacetime when they decide there are justifiable grounds to do so.

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 fighter operated by the U.S. Marines.

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