Unveiling of ‘Izumo-class’ carrier by Japan brings back the memories of WW2

In the events leading up to the Second World War, Japan invaded China in a bid to claim the land mass and manpower. An armored cruiser named ‘Izumo’ played a vital role in this campaign – causing havoc and creating fear among the Chinese people. Recently, the whole world watched in shock and awe– especially Chinese officials were in a state of panic – when Japan’s MSDF (Maritime Self Defense Force) unveiled what they are calling a ‘destroyer,’ but rest of the world sees as a massive carrier, named ‘Izumo.’

248m in length, ‘Izumo’ is the biggest vessel Japan has manufactured since WWII. The ship has the capacity to carry at least 28 aircrafts on its deck as well as support five helicopter landing pads, which allow landings and takeoffs to occur simultaneously. Additionally, it can carry 400 marines and 50 supply trucks (each weighing around 4 tons). The ship is also equipped with 2 Sea RAM and 2 Phalanx CIWS for its defense.

Japanese officials insist that the operational capabilities of this ‘destroyer’ are very limited. They pointed towards self-defense patrols as a response to a natural disaster such as an earthquake or tsunami. There is a growing sense of uncertainty among the world’s defense analysts, especially because Japan is in a dispute with China over a chain of islands called Senkakus (or Diaoyus, in China).

Japan’s ties with China chilled sharply when the Japanese government bought the rocky islands of Senkaku in the East China Sea, as China claims the ownership of these islands. The two countries conduct regular patrols of the waters around the islands, and Japan claims that it needed this ship for an adequate defense of its territory.

Japan’s conservative Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is calling to reinterpret Japan’s ‘Peace Constitution.’ After World War II, Ally leaders and the US imposed ‘Peace Constitution’ over Japan that prohibited it to have a regular standing military force. Mr. Abe is believesthat this ‘primitive and impractical’ imposition limits Japan’s self defense capabilities, against neighboring rivals, especially China.

Although Japan’s rivals are very fierce in questioning its claims for the legitimacy of ‘Izumo,’ Japanese officials are very adamant that Japan has no military objectives to achieve with the construction of such a ship. Chinese military expert, Lie Jie, in an interview to a state-backed Chinese newspaper Global times said, “The Izumo proves that Japan has the technical capabilities and demand to develop aircraft carriers. It’s also possible that Japan may explore the possibility during the Izumo’s service.”

However Japan’s defense minister told reporters that MSDF has no such intentions and said, “We are not thinking about using this as an aircraft carrier.” Under ‘Peace Constitution’ Japan cannot have a ship classified as an aircraft carrier in its fleet, the CNN Edition reports.

Everything about this unveiling is bizarre and dramatic. Bearing the name of a WWII cruise ship which is the sheer size of a beast and which helped to invade China, especially when Japan is in a current stand-off with China, sends a strong message. It is no longer a pre-WWII pickle of warring tribes, but a strong economic and military might of the world.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE