RIEKO MIKI, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — Japan has sent the largest naval vessel in its fleet to the Indian Ocean as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s JS Izumo helicopter carrier and destroyer, widely regarded as Japan’s de facto aircraft carrier, left its home port of Yokosuka, in Kanagawa Prefecture, on Tuesday and will be dispatched until July 10.
The Izumo and fellow destroyer Murasame, along with 590 crew members, will stop by at Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, conducting joint exercises with the Southeast Asian nations.
The Izumo is carrying about 30 members of Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade. The unit, which falls under the Ground Self-Defense Force, is equivalent to the U.S. Marine Corps and specializes in recapturing islands. This is the brigade’s first involvement in a long-term voyage by the Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Tokyo aims to deepen defense ties with the region’s countries and bolster its deterrence capabilities, with an eye on China’s offshore encroachment.