New Japanese Helicopter Carrier Draws China Warning to Asia

China said Asian neighbors must be alert to Japan’s defense buildup after it unveiled a vessel capable of carrying 14 helicopters, the largest Japanese military ship produced since World War II.

“Japan should reflect on its history, adhere to self-defense and respect its promise to follow the road of peaceful development,” China’s Defense Ministry said in a faxed statement today, referring to the pacifist constitution Japan adopted after losing the war.

Yesterday’s unveiling of the 19,500-ton Izumo reflects Japan’s push to bolster its maritime forces as it faces off with China over East China Sea islands that both claim. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to boost defense spending for the first time in 11 years coincides with China’s own defense budget expansion of 10.7 percent this year.

The Izumo is a “symbol of Japan’s strong wish to return to its time as a military power,” China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper said in a commentary today. Japan already has two helicopter carriers.

In the statement, China’s Defense Ministry urged Japan to stick to self-defense. China’s projected 2013 defense budget is the equivalent of $121 billion, more than twice Japan’s 2013 defense budget of 4.68 trillion yen ($51.7 billion).

The English-language China Daily newspaper said in an editorial today that Abe has adopted a “militaristic approach to building national pride.” The editorial said the Izumo was “provocatively named after” a World War II ship involved in the invasion of China.

Maritime Power

China’s President Xi Jinping vowed last month to turn China into a maritime power. The country commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, last year.

The Izumo is the biggest military vessel Japan has produced since the war, Defense Ministry spokesman Atsushi Sakurai said today. The 1941-commissioned Yamato, which displaced 72,000 tons fully loaded, was the largest battleship ever built at the time along with its sister ship Musashi, according to the U.S. Navy.

The largest warships today are the the U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, which displace 97,000 tons fully loaded, according to the Navy.

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson

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