Britain’s Royal Navy will send its newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, and its strike group near Japan “as soon as early next year,” Kyodo News reported over the weekend.
The strike group is expected to exercise with the U.S. and Japan Self-Defense Forces in the waters near Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, the southern chain that includes Okinawa, the news agency reported, citing unnamed Japanese government sources.
Japan Ministry of Defense officials on Monday told Stars and Stripes they were aware of the reports, but nothing has been decided.
The report comes as tensions grow over China’s militarization and claims of sovereignty over islands and reefs in the South and East China seas. The U.S. in July formally denied China’s “illegal claims” in the region, and Japan regularly protests Chinese incursions into the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands. The islands are also claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyus, and by Taiwan. (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’s NOTE: Interestingly, the Kyodo report cited in the above article states that “During the dispatch, the British navy also plans to conduct maintenance on carrier-based F-35B stealth fighter jets at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.'s aerospace systems works in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, the sources said.”)