US President Donald Trump concluded his four-day visit to Japan on Tuesday with an inspection of a helicopter destroyer, which is planned to be converted into an aircraft carrier, and Chinese experts said his move indicates his acquiescence of Japan's military ambitions and may trigger a new arms race.
Accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump inspected the Kaga at the Maritime Self-Defense Force base in Yokosuka, the first time a US president has stepped aboard a Self-Defense Force ship, Japan's Kyodo News reported.
Ni Feng, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, told the Global Times that the inspection once again shows that Trump wants its allies to shoulder greater military responsibility and boost their defense budgets, which encourages Abe's pursuit of military power.
Chinese analysts noted that the helicopter destroyer Trump inspected is controversial even in Japan, as the country is not allowed to possess weapons that could be used to attack other countries after its defeat in World War II.
Kaga, an Izumo-class helicopter destroyer, is expected to be refurbished and function as an aircraft carrier capable of carrying F-35B stealth fighters, NHK reported on Tuesday.
Trump's visit shows he is ignoring the fact that Japan has not reflected on the wartime history, or that Japan's current quest to regain military strength raises concerns in the region, said Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing,
Despite being allies, the US used to limit Japan's military development and did not allow it to have any kind of long-range delivery and strike capability, Yang said, noting that the Izumo-class ship would fall into this category.
This means Japan has the tacit endorsement of the US president to expand its military capabilities, Yang said.
The inspection could heighten tensions in the region, incite confrontation between major countries and may lead to an arms race, Ni said.
Echoing Ni, Yang stressed that if Japan were to once again become a major military power, neighboring countries and regions will definitely worry.
During his four-day visit, Trump announced Japan's plan to buy 105 US-made F-35 fighter jets. He also discussed trade with Abe, noting the US trade deficit with Japan is large, but he hopes to announce a trade deal soon, media reported.