It's being called a destroyer, or perhaps a helicopter carrier. But by any name, Japan's new warship, unveiled Tuesday, is the largest it has built since World War II. The ship was shown to the public on the anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and at a time of escalating tensions with China.
"Though the ship--dubbed 'Izumo'-- has been in the works since 2009, its unveiling comes as Japan and China are locked in a dispute over several small islands located between southern Japan and Taiwan," The Asahi Shimbun reports. "For months, ships from both countries have been conducting patrols around the isles, called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyutai in China."
With a flat flight deck — but reportedly lacking catapults or other means of launching fixed-wing aircraft — the Izumo could be used against submarines, or to deliver large loads of supplies and people to disaster areas, officials say.
The ship measures 248 meters (814 feet) in length; in comparison, the largest U.S. aircraft carriers are between 1,000 and 1,100 feet long.
"We express our concern at Japan's constant expansion of its military equipment. This trend is worthy of high vigilance by Japan's Asian neighbours and the international community," China's defense ministry tells Agence France-Presse. "Japan should learn from history, adhere to its policy of self-defense and abide by its promise of taking the road of peaceful development."
Japan's military is collectively known as the Self-Defense Forces, a name that reflects its pacifist constitution. But in recent years, the country's leaders have shown a shift in how they view that document, which dates from the end of World War II.
Over the weekend, a Japanese official who heads an advisory panel said it will urge a reinterpretation of Japan's constitution later this year, a move that would allow the country to engage in "collective self-defense," such as attacking a nation that attacks an ally, The Japan Times reports.
Also from The Japan Times comes news of a joint poll of citizens in China and Japan which found that, "Over 90 percent of Japanese and Chinese have an unfavorable impression of each other." The number is the highest in eight years, according to the newspaper.