Japan's de facto aircraft carrier since WWII raises security concern in region
Published: Oct 07, 2021 07:05 PM
Photo taken on March 22, 2017 shows the Maritime Self-Defense Force's helicopter destroyer <em>Kaga</em> on the right, anchored in Yokohama, near Tokyo. Another helicopter destroyer <em>Izumo</em> is seen on the left. Photo: IC

Photo taken on March 22, 2017 shows the Maritime Self-Defense Force's helicopter destroyer Kaga on the right, anchored in Yokohama, near Tokyo. Another helicopter destroyer Izumo is seen on the left. Photo: IC

By having F-35B stealth fighter jets successfully flying from a modified helicopter destroyer in a recent test, Japan now in de facto has an aircraft carrier in its arsenal, the first since the country brought disaster to the world in World War II, was defeated and vowed not to have aggressive weapons.

The move, driven by Japanese militarist forces to break free from the pacifist Constitution and supported by the US to contain China, is a dangerous one, and the US should know better and learn from the lessons of history, Chinese analysts said on Thursday.

After receiving modifications, the helicopter destroyer Izumo on Sunday hosted takeoff and landing tasks of F-35B aircraft operated by the US Marine Corps, Japan's Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday in a statement.

This means that the Izumo has become the first Japanese warship since World War II from which fixed-wing aircraft can operate, the Japan Times reported on the day. In other words, the Izumo has become a de facto aircraft carrier.

With Tuesday's confirmation, the carrier appears to have broken a long-standing taboo in Japan's postwar defense posture, leaving it unclear how or even if the Izumo's upgrade will remain within the confines of the country's long-standing "exclusively defense-oriented policy," the Japan Times said.

Since the initial commissioning of the Izumo in 2015, it has been no secret that Japan, particularly the country's militarist forces, was eyeing to turn it into a light aircraft carrier, and eventually break free from the pacifist Constitution, so it can become a "normal" country as if its war crimes committed in World War II never happened, a Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Thursday, requesting anonymity.

Aircraft carriers are strategic platforms for far sea operations, and with the Izumo becoming capable of hosting the F-35B, a type among the world's most advanced warplanes, it enables Japan to launch attacks far away from home, the expert warned.

Military observers pointed out that the F-35B aircraft used in the test were operated by the US Marine Corps, and this again showed that the US approved Japan's possession of aircraft carriers.

"Our F-35s are the first fighter aircraft to fly from a Japanese carrier since WWII," 1st Marine Aircraft Wing spokesperson Major Ken Kunze was quoted by US military newspaper Stars and Stripes as saying on Tuesday.

Japanese media reports claimed that the transformation of the Izumo into an aircraft carrier is aimed at countering China's military development.

As the F-35Bs are from the US, the US is transforming Japan into its "security assistant" in the region, Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, said on China Central Television on Wednesday.

"Allowing Japan to develop and operate aircraft carriers, the US is eyeing immediate interests rather than lessons taught by history," Yang said.

The Izumo, commissioned in 2015 as a helicopter carrier, had heat-resistant coating added to its deck this year, enabling it to support the F-35B's vertical landings, Stars and Stripes reported, noting that its sister ship, the Kaga, is scheduled for a similar makeover ahead of Japan's acquisition of 42 F-35Bs, which are slated to arrive sometime in the next five years.