Japan is boosting the size of its navy as tensions rise with China, which is also rapidly expanding its military capabilities.
The Kaga, Japan’s second Izumo-class helicopter carrier, entered service Wednesday as a part of the country’s Maritime Self-Defense Force. The new ship will allow Japan to project military power and push back against the Chinese.
“China is attempting to make changes in the South China Sea with bases and through acts that exert pressure is altering the status quo, raising security concerns among the international community,” Vice Minister of Defence Takayuki Kobayashi said as Japanese commanders took possession of the ship.
The $1 billion vessel can carry fourteen helicopters, which will be used to hunt Chinese submarines, reports the Asahi Shimbun. Improved Chinese capabilities have made Chinese subs harder to find.
The Izumo, Japan’s first large helicopter carrier, will soon traverse the South China Sea on a three-month tour of the region. The deployment of the carrier will be Japan’s largest show of naval strength in the region since the Second World War.
China warned Japan to reflect on its history and avoid stirring up trouble in the region.
“If the Japanese side still refuses to realize its error and play up regional tensions, China will definitely respond to any action that harm China’s sovereignty and security,” warned Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Japan’s two helicopter carriers, which are classified as destroyers despite their resemblance to aircraft carriers, are representative of the prime minister’s efforts to expand Japan’s influence in international affairs.
With the Kaga, Japan will be able to conduct overseas operations with greater ease.
Chinese attempts to project power into the Western Pacific, as well as assert its dominance over disputed territories under Japanese administration in the heated East China Sea, alarm Japan. At the same time, China has expressed concerns over efforts by Japanese leadership to amend the country’s pacifist constitution to expand the scope of operations for Japan’s military.
Japan has a total of four helicopter carriers, the Izumo, the Kaga, and two smaller Hyuga-class destroyers.
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