Japan plans to send its largest warship to South China Sea

Japan Maritime Self Defense Force's helicopter carrier Izumo is seen at JMSDF Yokosuka base. Reuters photo

TOKYO —

Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, three sources said, in its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War Two.

China claims almost all the disputed waters and its growing military presence has fuelled concern in Japan and the West, with the United States holding regular air and naval patrols to ensure freedom of navigation.

The Izumo helicopter carrier, commissioned only two years ago, will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka before joining the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and U.S. naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.

It will return to Japan in August, the sources said.

“The aim is to test the capability of the Izumo by sending it out on an extended mission,” said one of the sources who have knowledge of the plan. “It will train with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea,” he added, asking not to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

A spokesman for Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force declined to comment.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also claim parts of the sea which has rich fishing grounds, oil and gas deposits and through which around $5 trillion of global sea-borne trade passes each year.

Japan does not have any claim to the waters, but has a separate maritime dispute with China in the East China Sea.

Japan wants to invite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has pushed ties with China in recent months as he has criticised the old alliance with the United States, to visit the Izumo when it visits Subic Bay, about 100 km (62 miles) west of Manila, another of the sources said.

Japan’s flag-flying operation comes as the United States under President Donald Trump appears to be taking a tougher line with China. Washington has criticized China’s construction of man-made islands and a build-up of military facilities that it worries could be used to restrict free movement.

Beijing in January said it had “irrefutable” sovereignty over the disputed islands after the White House vowed to defend “international territories”.

The 249 meter-long Izumo is as large as Japan’s World War Two-era carriers and can operate up to nine helicopters. It resembles the amphibious assault carriers used by U.S. Marines, but lacks their well deck for launching landing craft and other vessels.

Japan in recent years, particularly under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has been stretching the limits of its post-war, pacifist constitution. It has designated the Izumo as a destroyer because the constitution forbids the acquisition of offensive weapons. The vessel, nonetheless, allows Japan to project military power well beyond its territory.

Based in Yokosuka, near to Tokyo, which is also home to the U.S. Seventh Fleet’s carrier, the Ronald Reagan, the Izumo’s primary mission is anti-submarine warfare.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.

  • -4

    SenseNotSoCommon

    Can Nippon Kaigi bus the Moritomo kids up to wave it off?

  • -5

    gaijin playa

    Japan plans to send its largest warship to South China Sea

    ...and...?

  • 2

    Thunderbird2

    Japan has a carrier? I didn't know that. A helicopter carrier, yes, but still a carrier. (You can still launch VTOL aircraft from a helicarrier :) )

  • 6

    dcog9065

    The ship was only commissioned 2 years ago so a 3 month tour while undergoing trials and ending with a naval exercise with its allies is pretty normal

  • -1

    Poor English Speaker

    Is this "airplane carrier"?

  • 8

    Asakaze

    @gaijin playa

    ...and...?

    Read the article carefully. The ship "will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka before joining the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and U.S. naval vessels in the Indian Ocean".

    Usual activity for a naval ship.

  • 2

    genesys

    If China sends military ships to the area at that time, there could be an unprecedented standoff.

  • -2

    Ron Barnes

    looks like a great missile launcher with a helipad but looks need to be backed up with strength against North Korea not China as She has the biggest of everything for emergencies like war and china will win

  • -1

    Uwe Paschen

    Japan may be playing a form of Russian roulette. Well, if the gun goes off it would suit the US.

  • 1

    thepersoniamnow

    @sensenotsocommon

    How you confuse our largest warship with something to do with nationalist is a little odd? Are you against self defense?

  • 2

    OssanAmerica

    Who wants to bet that she will be trailed by the PLA Navy? The best workout this vessel and crew oould get is if China trails her with a submarine.

  • -9

    mr_jgb

    Another step in the wrong direction. The ding, then follow by the dong, then the daiko war drums will boom and the folly of war, of death, of destruction will follow.

  • -5

    IloveCoffee

    I wonder if they would be brave enough to do that if the US wasn't backing them?

  • -11

    Fred Wallace

    Cowards!!

  • -2

    thepersoniamnow

    As should be well known by now, Japan is rapidly arming. In the last 5 years it went from strictly pacifist, to pondering who to sell arms to. It will be very interesting if Japan and the USA patrol together. It may be dangerous, but it also may be safer than having the Chinese fly or sail closer and closer. As long as everyone has their little zones to claim they can live and let.

  • 0

    Arshi

    Not the best thing for them to do.

  • 3

    englisc aspyrgend

    Every navy sends ships out on "showing the flag" cruises with stops at various ports, the objective is mainly a combination of training and diplomacy. As part of the ships work up and training is only sensible.

  • 4

    kiyoshiMukai

    Wonderfull new ship, Izumo can carry Battletanks

  • 6

    KnowBetter

    China brought this on. Only China is to blame. Anyone that thinks letting China continue to do what it wants without being challenged is a good idea must clearly be from the Chinese group that wants total control of the area. If you let China continue too long, China will just claim that no one said anything and so it's theirs. They are already partly claiming it as it stands. Just look at how far the world has let North Korea advance. When will it be too late to stop either of those two?

  • 2

    kiyoshiMukai

    Its incredible how influence works, USA managed to not be enemiy with its neighbors but Russia, China, venezuela, Iran have a lot to learn. Be friends with countries that are close to you

  • -3

    MsDelicious

    “It will train with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea,” he added, asking not to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

    Isn't giving away secrets called treason?

  • -1

    voiceofokinawa

    Why is this gigantic warship called an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) carrier and classified as a helicopter destroyer? It's no different from the USS amphibious assault ship BonHomme Richard in size and almost all other specifications.

  • 1

    nandakandamanda

    Voice: It's classed as a submarine destroyer. How it it different? Try the article.

  • -1

    OssanAmerica

    When the JS Izumo was launched the band played both the Gunkan March as well as Anchors Aweigh at the ceremony.

  • 0

    CyburneticTiger

    As the article states, it lacks a well deck therefore it cannot launch amphibious vehicles to assualt a position.

    It hunts submarines through sophisticated sonar systems and arial surveillance

  • -2

    noypikantoku

    well Rodrigo Duterte showed his real stance, while the whole Philippines is freaking out about Chinese ships conducting surveys in Bernham Rise ( A Philippine Territory), Duterte made a statement that HE alone gave China permission to be there and do the survey! So Japan, as long as Duterte remains the president in the Philippines, don't expect that he will side you over China.

  • -3

    elephant200

    If the JMSDD lost this ship, she will lost her carrier forever

  • -4

    noypikantoku

    it's useless to help Philippines as Duterte is a chinese ally. I will not be surprised if the filipinos will be asked tofight side by side with china against Japan. So maybe this ship should better off guarding only Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

  • -1

    voiceofokinawa

    nandakandamanda,

    The article says:

    The 249 meter-long Izumo is as large as Japan’s World War Two-era carriers and can operate up to nine helicopters. It resembles the amphibious assault carriers used by U.S. Marines, but lacks their well deck for launching landing craft and other vessels.

    I see. It may lack a well deck to release assaul troops and vehicles the BonHomme Richard has. So it may not be an assault ship, but can't it be turned into a regular assault aircraft carrier with only minor changes made in a short period of time?

  • -4

    akkk1

    get ready for apocalyptic WW3

  • 0

    Graham DeShazo

    I wonder if and how many F-35Cs it could carry.

  • 0

    CyburneticTiger

    So it may not be an assault ship, but can't it be turned into a regular assault aircraft carrier with only minor changes made in a short period of time?

    No, it lacks the deck space required to carry enough aircraft to be used like a CVN. Japan would have to just build a brand new aircraft carrier for that. The closest they could get to naming this a strike capable aircraft carrier is placing some F-35C on it but they probably would be able to put enough aircraft on it to do much.

  • 0

    voiceofokinawa

    CyburneticTiger,

    It may lack enough space on the deck to carry a required number of aircraft, as you say. But when it participated in joint Japan-U.S. exercises off the U.S. coast last year, it demonstrated capability to put a landed MV-2 Osprey away into a storage space under the deck. Can't its cruising speed at 30 knots (56 km/h) deal with landing and taking-off jet planes easily?

  • -1

    OssanAmerica

    Graham DeShazoMar. 15, 2017 - 05:15PM JST I wonder if and how many F-35Cs it could carry.

    You mean F-35B

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXufPGRy_QA

  • 0

    Triring

    The Izumo class would be a poor candidate as a fixed wing carrier due to lack of space and facilities. The ship would be able to carry about 6~8 planes but it does not have space to remove and test the engines like the US super carriers so it would be a temporary platform at best.

    Japan could develop a better platform utilizing maglev technology to install an EMAL system if they really wanted one but it would be a very costly endeavor that most nation would not opt in to.

  • 0

    CyburneticTiger

    Voice, the only jets the Izumo could carry are the AV-8 or the F-35C because it lacks the deck length needed for any others to take off or land. Yes, they can use the extra hangar space they have due to the lack of well deck to store more aircraft. But as Triring pointed out, there needs to be a lot of space for maintenance. They would also be playing a slow difficult game of tetris as they tried to move aircraft and gear around in order to put aircraft on the flight deck. Trying to get jets in the sky would be so slow and inefficient that it really wouldn't make sense to have more than 8.

  • 0

    voiceofokinawa

    CyburneticTiger,

    ... the only jets the Izumo could carry are the AV-8 or the F-35C because it lacks the deck length needed for any others to take off or land.

    You sound as if the Izumo could carry only outmoded jets. But aren't AV-8's and F-35's cutting-edge aircraft, the former having a V/STOL function and the latter a stealth function?

    But I won't go any further in this discussion for technical details about the Izumo. All I want to know is why the JMSDF needs to possess such a warship only for self-defense.

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