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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Japan sends warship to join US strike force

Iran Press TV

Mon May 1, 2017 7:18AM

Japan has dispatched its biggest warship for the first time in history to escort an American strike force near the Korean Peninsula.

Following an order from Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, the helicopter carrier Izumo departed from its base in Yokosuka, south of the capital, Tokyo, on Monday to join the US strike group, which includes the large USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier.

The 249-meter-long Japanese carrier can carry up to nine helicopters. Its primary mission, however, is anti-submarine warfare.

Japan passed a set of controversial laws to expand the role of its military in 2015. The laws allow Tokyo to potentially engage in conflicts overseas.

Tokyo is also allowed to protect the weapons and equipment of its allied armed forces defending it and to provide logistical support to its allies involved in situations with "important influence" on Japanese security. One of the laws, known as "collective self-defense," also enables Japan to aid an ally under military attack.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has come under fire because the new laws could, according to their opponents, drag the country into unnecessary wars abroad.

Tensions have been on the rise on the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks. Unsettled by North Korean missile and military nuclear programs, the United States has adopted a war-like posture, sending the strike force and conducting joint military drills with North Korea's regional adversaries Japan and South Korea.

Japanese fighter jets joined the USS Carl Vinson in waters off the Japanese city of Okinawa on Saturday.

Annual massive military drills between the US and South Korea also wrapped up earlier.

North Korea says the annual drills are rehearsals for invasion. Pyongyang is also concerned by the permanent presence of American forces in the region.

The dispatching of the strike group has now specifically worked to mount tensions, raising fears of a potential military confrontation with North Korea.

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