MANILA, Philippines – Japan’s largest warship, the JS Izumo, is visiting the Philippines in June as part of its reported 3-month tour in the South China Sea.
Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said the massive helicopter carrier will dock at Subic Port in Zambales.
Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal), which is practically occupied by China, is attached to Zambales. It is also called Bajo de Masinloc, after Masinloc town in the province.
“The JS Izumo, the largest Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel, will be visiting the Philippines in Subic and the Philippine Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are looking forward to that visit,” Mercado told reporters on the sidelines of the formal turnover of Japanese TC-90 patrol planes to the navy on Monday, March 27.
Mercado said the activities have yet to be finalized, but he said Filipino troops will be allowed to visit the vessel. Coordination is ongoing, he said.
“I was able to board that vessel when I visited Japan. It’s a huge helicopter-landing vessel, the largest right now within the inventory of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force,” Mercado said.
A Japanese news organization reported a plan to invite President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the warship. Duterte made headlines in January when he toured a Russian anti-submarine warship visiting the Philippines.
Duterte has also spoken about boarding a Chinese ship that he said will visit Philippine shores. This is after a US aircraft carrier visited the country earlier in the month, which he did not tour.
Both the Philippines and Japan have maritime disputes with China.
On Monday, Japan’s State Minister for Defense Kenji Wakamiya led the formal turnover of two TC-90 patrol planes to the Philippine Navy in a bid to boost its maritime surveillance capability.
Wakamiya said the Philippines is an important nation for Japan and celebrated the “great friendship” between Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“The Philippines is a politically important nation for Japan as it is located in the sea line of communication to Japan [and] we are faced with many security-related issues in Asia Pacific, including those in the South China Sea,” Wakamiya said.
The TC-90 patrol planes are faster and have longer range than the patrol planes in the inventory of the navy, the Islander aircraft.
Three more TC-90s are expected to arrive later in the year. – Rappler.com
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