Report: Japan to deploy helicopter carrier on three-month South China Sea mission

Japan is sending its 24,000-ton helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) on a three-month deployment to the South China Sea, Reuters said in a report on Monday.

During its mission, the helicopter carrier will visit Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before joining the annual Malabar naval exercise, Reuters said citing sources.

“The aim is to test the capability of the Izumo by sending it out on an extended mission. It will train with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea,” Reuters quoted one of the sources as saying.

If the carrier does go on a South China Sea mission, the move could anger China whose officials have already reacted to the report. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunyuing told media that China’s reaction would depend on the nature of the carrier’s deployment.

Malabar, the drill Izumo is expected to join, is a trilateral exercise attended by the navies of Japan, U.S. and India that is expected to grow in complexity this year.

JS Izumo is the first of two planned helicopter carriers which Japan officially classifies as helicopter destroyers. Izumo and sister ship JS Kaga are the largest ships in the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force capable of carrying up to 28 aircraft.