The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) first-of-class flattop JS Izumo and the Murasame-class destroyer JS Murasame made a port call in the strategically important Cam Ranh International Port from June 14 to 17, the JMSDF said in a statement. Cam Ranh, situated on the southeastern coast of Vietnam, is home to a naval maintenance and logistics facility.
The port call, termed a “good will visit” by the Japanese Navy, aimed to “promote understanding and trust” between the Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN) and the JMSDF, according to the press release. The visit involved senior VPN personnel touring the JS Izumo, cultural exchanges, sporting events, and a press conference by the JMSDF carrier group commander.
The visit highlights the continuing military links between Japan and Vietnam as part of their so-called extensive strategic partnership amid China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea. Japan has no territorial claims in the disputed waters, but it does have a territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea. Notably, to date the JMSDF has not joined the U.S. Navy or other allied navies in conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea to challenge Chinese territorial claims.
The Izumo carrier group consists of the JS Murasame and Murasame-class destroyer JS Akebone, as well as a total of five military aircraft. The JS Akebone did not take part in the Cam Ranh port call. The Indo-Pacific deployment of the JS Izumo and its escort began April 30 and runs through July 10.
While deployed, the small Japanese flotilla has been engaging with the naval forces of Brunei, India, the Philippines, the United States, Vietnam, and Singapore, among others. As I explained:
Last month, ships of the Indian Navy engaged with the JS Izumo and JS Murasame in an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) drill in the Andaman Sea.
The Indo-Japanese drill was preceded by a JMSDF-U.S Navy cooperative deployment in the Malacca Strait involving the USS William P. Lawrence, a U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the JS Izumo, and the JS Murasame on May 22.
The two JMSDF warships also participated in a multilateral naval engagement between May 2 and May 8 in the South China Sea.
Prior to its visit to Vietnam, the Izumo carrier group conducted a naval exercise with the U.S. Navy Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea from June 10 to 12.
The recent port call of the JS Izumo was not the first for the flattop in Vietnam. The carrier stopped in Cam Ranh Bay in May 2017 to participate in the U.S.-led Pacific Partnership (PP17) mission, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) preparedness exercise conducted in the Indo-Pacific region.