Abe becomes 1st Japan PM to board US carrier

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses the crowd following an international fleet review in Sagami Bay on Sunday. Later, he became the first Japanese prime minister to tour a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.


By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 18, 2015

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Shinzo Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to board a United States nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, when he flew aboard the USS Ronald Reagan at sea, Navy officials said Sunday.

Abe’s visit aboard the carrier happened a few hours after an international fleet review in Sagami Bay, west of Yokosuka. The review featured ships and aircraft from Japan, France, India, Australia, South Korea and the United States. Two 7th Fleet ships, USS Chancellorsville and USS Mustin, participated in the review.

The carrier visit comes as Japan, in an effort led by Abe, seeks to broaden its role in global security affairs.

On Thursday, Abe met with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, who made Japan his first foreign visit about a month after assuming the job.

In April, the revised U.S.-Japan bilateral security guidelines agreement shifted from an emphasis on contingencies near Japan to “global activities in the field of security,” according to the framework document.

Last month, Japan passed a series of security bills that would allow its personnel to defend close allies, such as the United States, for the first time in combat.

Prior to the bills’ passage, Japan could only fire upon an enemy if directly attacked. The bills were adopted despite majority opposition in polls by citizens, who cited concerns about the measures’ constitutionality, as well as the possibility that they could involve Japan in a war far from its shores.

The Abe administration has cited North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons program and China’s rapid military modernization as reasons for the security measures.

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Capt. Christopher Bolt, right, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, explains flight deck operations to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, during a visit to the ship on Oct. 18, 2015, while at sea in waters near Japan. Abe's visit marked the first time a sitting Japanese prime minister toured a U.S. aircraft carrier, Navy officials said.

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