A Japanese naval destroyer left port on Monday on a reported mission of escorting US military ships off the coast as Japan tries to increase its military role amid heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula.
The helicopter carrier Izumo departed from the Yokosuka port near Tokyo in the morning.
The destroyer was to meet up and escort a US supply ship in the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo later on Monday, a new mission under the new security legislation allowing Japan’s military a greater role in overseas activity, according to Japanese media reports. They said that the US supply ship is expected to refuel other American warships, including the USS Carl Vinson strike group, currently in the region.
Japan’s defence ministry only said that the Izumo left on Monday to eventually participate in an international naval event in Singapore on May 15.
Tensions have increased as North Korea pushes to develop its missile and nuclear weapons programs in defiance of international sanctions and President Donald Trump warns of the potential threat Pyongyang’s action pose to other countries.
Trump sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier toward the region, and the US and South Korea also started installing the THAAD anti-missile system that is supposed to be partially operational within days.
South Korea said the United States had reaffirmed it would shoulder the cost of deploying THAAD, days after Trump said Seoul should pay for the $1 billion battery designed to defend against North Korea.
In a telephone call on Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, HR McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the US alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South’s presidential office said.
The conversation followed another North Korean missile test-launch on Saturday which Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful, but which drew widespread international condemnation.
Trump stepped up his outreach to allies in Asia over the weekend to discuss the North Korean nuclear threat and make sure all are “on the same page” if action is needed, a top White House official said.
In a further show of force, the Carl Vinson arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula and began exercises with the South Korean navy late on Saturday.
The dispatch of the Carl Vinson was a “reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely dangerous nuclear war,” the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary on Saturday.
In Australia, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull used a commemoration of a World War II naval battle to warn North Korea against military threat.
“Today Australia and the United States continue to work with our allies to address new security threats around the world,” Turnbull said. “Together, we’re taking a strong message to North Korea that we will not tolerate reckless, dangerous threats to the peace and stability of our region.”