Japanese defense chief visits controversial helicopter-carrier, U.S. aircraft carrier


TOKYO,  (Xinhua) — Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada on Tuesday inspected some controversial Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) hardware and urged troops to continue to carry out their duties before boarding a U.S. aircraft carrier, in the new minister’s first such visit to naval bases here.

Inada, who has been defense minister for less than a month, visited a U.S. naval base in the city of Yokosuka, in Kanagawa Prefecture, where she boarded the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan. Prior to that she inspected the helicopter-carrier Izumo, the largest destroyer in the MSDF’s fleet.

During her inspection of Izumo she urged MSDF personnel to continue to carry out their duties and pledged to bolster the Japan-U.S. alliance, stating that the relationship was important to peace and stability in the region.

The MSDF destroyer has been in the spotlight for being a de facto aircraft carrier, as the 248-meter vessel weighing 19,500 tons, while being able to accommodate 14 helicopters, is also believed to be able to launch the U.S. Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft as well as the U.S. military’s F-35B fighter jets, from its lengthy flight deck.

The “offensive” weapon is in contravention of Japan’s pacifist constitution, a key clause of which reads that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

The mayor of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Yoshihiko Fukuda, on Monday, meanwhile, took aim at Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Shunsuke Takei and Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense Hiroyuki Miyazawa, for a lack of information pertaining to the first potential deployment by the U.S. of 16 F-35Bs, at a base in Iwakuni in the western Japanese prefecture.

The deployment brings concerns of safety and noise, Fukuda said, and asked to be given more operational information before making a final decision on the prefecture hosting the aircraft, which feature stealth technology and can take off and land vertically.

Inada, a security hawk and ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also known for her controversial views on Japan’s wartime history, boarding the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and holding meetings with senior U.S. naval forces’ commanders, having inspected a controversial piece of MSDF hardware, could stoke concerns about both Japan’s remilitarization, as well as the United States‘ pivot to the Asia Pacific region.

Editor: Hou Qiang