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Japan's New Warship, Biggest Since WWII, Raises Eyebrows in China

JAPAN-MILITARY-DIPLOMACY-MARITIME-WARSHIPJapan unveiled the Izumo, a hulking grey destroyer that will patrol and protect the Japanese archipelago, in a cheerful ceremony at a harbor outside Tokyo yesterday. The Izumo resembles an aircraft carrier, with its flat top and 820-foot long flight deck, and it is indeed designed to carry 14 helicopters, with the potential to be outfitted for fixed-wing, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. In Beijing, eyebrows are no doubt being raised.

The Izumo is Japan’s largest warship since World War II, and its launch occurred on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in the midst of unprecedented tension between China and Japan over disputed island territory in the East China Sea. Naval warships, fighter jets, and maritime patrol vessels from both countries have frequently confronted each other and even pointed missiles at one another near disputed territory over the past year.

“We are concerned over Japan’s constant expansion of its military equipment. Japan’s Asian neighbors and the international community need to be highly vigilant about this trend,” China’s defense ministry told the Global Times, which ran a full-page story devoted to the Izumo. “Japan should learn from history, adhere to its policy of self-defense and abide by its promise to take the road of peaceful development.”

The Liaoning, China’s first and so far only aircraft carrier, “was mainly built for training purposes while the Izumo was built for a real war,” a professor at the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army told the Global Times. Japan has “one of the best equipped and best trained naval forces in the Pacific,” the Associated Press reports. Despite its pacifist constitution, which among other things prevents Japan from operating aircraft carriers, Japan still outclasses the maritime capabilities and resources of its neighbors. The Chinese are looking at the Izumo, studying Japan’s increasingly militaristic trend, and reacting accordingly by upping their own navy and maritime police units. The Philippines, Vietnam, and India, among others, are also pursuing stronger naval forces. The naval arms race in Asia is cruising along.

[Japan’s newest warship, the DDH183 Izumo, is pictured during a launch ceremony in Yokohama on August 6, 2013. Image courtesy of Getty Images.]

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  • Thirdsyphon

    Well, what did China expect? Nationalism begets nationalism, and saber-rattling begets more saber-rattling. The rising powers of Asia are all very excited, after centuries of weakness and humiliation, to finally have the opportunity to assert their national honor. . . which of course is perceived by the nations on the receiving end of such assertions as insulting *their* national honor, the defense of which requires that such provocations be answered. . . and on and on.

    The Asian power dynamic is looking uncomfortably like Europe’s in the lead-up to World War I: the increasing appeals to “national honor” are a dead giveaway. . . and a dire warning. Honor, by its nature, is a zero-sum game, and when rival nations start pursuing it for its own sake, it sets up contests of face-saving, credibility, shame, humiliation, and vengeance that have a proven track-record of spiraling out of control.

  • rheddles

    This is all spin.

    At 27,000 tons, it is a midget carrier. The Chinese (formerly Russian) Liaoning is 65,000 tons, the newly revealed Chinese carrier under construction will be at least as big. The Ford will be 112,000 tons. With no well deck, it is no amphibious threat. Only 14 anti-submarine helicopters is no threat to anyone except Chinese subs.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Well not exactly.
      While I completely agree with your overall analysis (particularly the comparison of the new ship to the Chinese carriers), you aren’t entirely correct suggesting that this new vessel is no threat to anyone except Chinese subs.
      The Chinese have made it clear that they will be using their newly rebranded coast guard to enforce their claims on numerous disputed islands, and that their navy stands ready to back up these claims should the coast guard prove inadequate. The Izumo (at the heart of a small battlegroup, which is how it is clearly intended to be used) would be quite a serious threat to any surface forces that the Chinese already have (their destroyers, for instance, are nowhere near as capable as the Izumo), and those helicopters are all equipped to carry anti-ship missiles which would give a JMSDF battlegroup some tactical flexibility that the Chinese would be loathe to confront.

  • lukelea

    Territorial disputes have at all times been found one of the most fertile sources of hostility among nations. Perhaps the greatest proportion of wars that have desolated the earth have spring from this origin. Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist NO. 7

    He goes on to say:

    “In the wide field of Western territory [for which we might substitute East China Sea] we perceive an ample theatre for hostile pretensions, without any umpire or common judge to interpose between the contending parties. . . States, like individuals, acquiesce with great reluctance in determinations to their disadvantage.

    In this particular case, at least in my judgment, considerations of physical proximity and events in late 19th century history both argue in favor of China’s claim to these tiny outcroppings. But who is going to convince Japan of as much? I hope the World Court or some other neutral body with international standing (not the United States, though we ought to be prepared, with military force if necessary, support whatever final decision is made) intervenes to arbitrate this dispute. Perhaps Japan could be compensated as a face saving device.

    Because if China and Japan come to blows , no matter who wins the first round, it is not going to end well for the entire region. China will either swagger or, worse, build up her military to win the next round.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    One variant of the F-35 will be a vertical takeoff and landing model which could easily be used on a pocket carrier like the Izumo. Japan is supposed to start taking delivery of 42 F-35’s in 2017.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Aside from the fact that the Japanese are not (to my knowlege) buying the vertical take off and landing models of the F-35 (I believe that they are buying the A model, similar to what the USAF is operating), there are other barriers to this approach.
      The F-35B (the VSTOL version) produces extreme heat as a result of it’s engine design, and thus could not be used on the Izumo without a major deck redesign/rebuild.
      More to the point, the existing Japanese constitution forbids aircraft carriers, which means that their would have to be some serious political fighting resolved before the Izumo could be used with F-35s. It isn’t impossible for this to happen (Abe clearly wishes it to), but it isn’t as simple as flicking a switch.
      Given the hanger size requirements of an F-35, the changes necessary in the deck design, and the seriously inadequate fuel/ammo storage for multi-sortie operations of the aircraft onboard, I think it is extremely unlikely that the Izume would be utilizied in this way. More likely, if Abe is able to win his fight and alter the constitution, we might see a purpose built carrier for other F-35 in the future..

  • smiggle23 .

    i totally agree with you..china started this arms race, then why are they bothered if their neighbors such as japan produced these war machines..:)

    • Atanu Maulik

      Unlike that “cheap labor power” China, Japan is a formidable scientific, technological and industrial power.

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