Nu­clear-pow­ered car­rier USS Ron­ald Rea­gan docks in Ja­pan


The Amer­i­can nu­clear-pow­ered air­craft car­rier USS Ron­ald Rea­gan docked at its new home in Ja­pan’s Yoko­suka naval port Thurs­day just as Tokyo tries to deepen de­fense ties with the U.S. un­der new se­cu­rity laws that ex­pand the role of Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary.

The war­ship re­ceived a warm welcome from Ja­panese of­fi­cials be­cause of its role in dis­as­ter re­lief fol­low­ing the March 2011 earth­quake and tsunami dis­as­ter in north­ern Ja­pan.

At a cer­e­mony, U.S. Sec­re­tary of the Navy Ray Mabus said the ves­sel’s ar­rival and its welcome are “vis­i­ble sym­bols of our shared com­mit­ment to one another and re­gional sta­bil­ity.”

“To­gether we pro­vide the most crit­i­cal pil­lar of in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity, one that only mar­itime ser­vices can de­liver,” he said.

Out­side the port, how­ever, a small group of cit­i­zens protested the air­craft car­rier’s de­ploy­ment as a move to step up Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with the U.S.

Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s gov­ern­ment has pushed to en­hance the role of Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary in na­tional de­fense and in global peace­keep­ing. It passed new laws dur­ing a chaotic par­lia­men­tary ses­sion last month that al­low the coun­try’s troops to also de­fend their al­lies, mainly the U.S., over­seas.

Abe says Ja­pan needs the laws to in­crease its ca­pa­bil­i­ties amid China’s grow­ing mil­i­tary as­sertive­ness, North Korea’s mis­sile and nu­clear am­bi­tions, and other se­cu­rity con­cerns. But many Ja­panese worry the new laws in­crease the risk of Ja­pan be­com­ing em­broiled in U.S.-led wars.

The Ron­ald Rea­gan, car­ry­ing about 5,000 crewmem­bers, re­places the USS Ge­orge Washington, which was the first U.S. nu­clear- pow­ered war­ship based in Ja­pan, where atomic weapons are a sen­si­tive is­sue. The Ge­orge Washington, which ar­rived in 2008, left in May for a mul­ti­year over­haul in the U.S.

Three de­stroy­ers are to be de­ployed later this year in Yoko­suka, near Tokyo, bring­ing the num­ber of U. S. war­ships based there to 14, the largest since Ja­pan’s World War II de­feat in 1945, Ky­odo News re­ported.

Dur­ing its re­lief work four years ago, the Ron­ald Rea­gan fer­ried food and wa­ter to the city of Sendai in dis­as­ter-hit north­ern Ja­pan. About 80 sailors on that mis­sion have sued the op­er­a­tor of the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi nu­clear power plant, say­ing it lied about the lev­els of ra­di­a­tion in the area.


U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Au­coin, right, com­man­der of the U.S. Sev­enth Fleet, de­liv­ers a speech in front of the U.S. Navy nu­clear-pow­ered air­craft car­rier USS Ron­ald Rea­gan upon its ar­rival at the U.S. Navy’s Yoko­suka base, south of Tokyo, Thurs­day, Oct. 1.

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