Japan plans to deploy its largest surface warship, helicopter carrier Izumo, to South China sea in May, sources claim. This plan of action is believed to be a response to recent military exercises carried out by China in a disputed area.
The Izumo helicopter carrier will visit Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before heading towards Indian Ocean in July to participate in Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and US vessels. It is expected to return to its home port of Yokosuka in August.
Japanese officials explain that the main purpose of these movements is “to test the capability of Izumo by sending it out on an extended mission”. “It will train with the US Navy in the South China Sea, where it will be given a chance to prove its combat effectiveness”.
With a length of 250 meters and a displacement of 27.000 tons when fully loaded, Izumo is the largest naval vessels ever built by Japan since the end of World War II. The ship can carry up to 28 aircraft od 400 troops with 10 fully loaded trucks. The flight deck has 5 helicopter landing spots that allow simultaneous landing or take-offs.
All in all, it bares resemblance to aircraft carriers in use by US Navy, but unlike its American counterparts, it lacks the ability to launch conventional take-off and landing aircraft.
However, it still is a formidable vessel and a valuable strategic asset to the Japanese Navy, which seeks to expand its presence and control over its territorial, and regional waters as well.
Chinese officials criticized their Japanese neighbors, saying that “China will continue to act in accordance to international law and regulations, but it will not allow foreign interventions and pressures that serve to diminish its right to govern its own territories and territorial waters”. Beijing recently warned that US decision to deploy more troops and THAAD anti-ballistic missiles to South Korea, and Japan’s aim to increase its presence in the South China Sea will make the whole region unstable and lead to a new regional arms race.
Japan does not have any claim to South China sea waters, but it does have a separate maritime dispute with China in the East China sea. Tokyo also expressed its concerns over China’s decision to build several artificial islands in international waters of South China sea. South Korea and USA also condemned these actions and requested from China to halt their construction and expansion.
But to no avail. China built the majority of the islands before US satellites and reconnaissance aircraft managed to determine their purpose and layout. And while both USA and Japan are putting much effort to contain and stop its military expansion, it is obvious that China’s power and presence in the East Asia region will continue to grow in the future.