28 Apr 17. As tension spikes on the Korean peninsula, a French amphibious assault carrier sailed into Japan’s naval base of Sasebo on Saturday ahead of drills that risk upsetting China, which faces U.S. pressure to rein in North Korea’s arms programmes.
The Mistral will lead exercises next month near Guam, along with forces from Japan, the United States and Britain, practicing amphibious landings around Tinian, an island about 2,500 km (1,553 miles) south of the Japanese capital of Tokyo.
The drills, involving 700 troops, were planned before Saturday’s test-firing of a ballistic missile by North Korea, in defiance of world pressure, in what would be its fourth successive unsuccessful missile test since March.
Japan and the United States are worried by China’s efforts to extend its influence beyond its coastal waters and the South China Sea by acquiring power-projecting aircraft carriers, a concern shared by France, which controls several Pacific islands, including New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
Even as they seek stronger economic ties with China, both France and Britain, which has two navy helicopters aboard the Mistral, are deepening security cooperation with Japan, a close U.S. ally that has Asia’s second-strongest navy after China.
The Mistral forms part of an amphibious task force mission, the Jeanne d’Arc, that is “a potent support to French diplomacy,” the country’s defence ministry said in a statement.
Officials and children’s welcome dances greeted the Mistral in Sasebo, on the western island of Kyushu, a major naval base for Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) and the U.S. Navy.
The Mistral, which left France in February, can carry up to 35 helicopters and four landing barges, besides several hundred soldiers. It will stay in Sasebo until May 5.
This month China launched its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong. It joined the Liaoning, bought from Ukraine in 1998, which led a group of Chinese warships through waters south of Japan in December.
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China’s military ambitions, however, have been overshadowed in recent weeks by tension on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang conducts long-range missile tests, and prepares for a possible sixth nuclear test.
In a show of force, the United States has sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to nearby waters, where it will join the USS Michigan, a guided missile submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday. The Carl Vinson entered the Sea of Japan on Saturday, where it completed naval drills with two Japanese warships dispatched from Sasebo, an MSDF spokesman said. (Source: Reuters)
28 Apr 17. North Korea tests missile as US calls for ‘painful’ sanctions Donald Trump warns of ‘major conflict’ over regime’s nuclear programme Read next Ingram Pinn Pinn’s illustration of the week: Hair Triggers North Korean troops march across Kim Il Sung Square to mark this month’s 105th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il Sung © AP Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Email60 Save 7 HOURS AGO by: Demetri Sevastopulo in New York North Korea tested a ballistic missile on Saturday morning local time, in a provocative move that came just hours after Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, called on UN member states to impose “painful” sanctions on the regime in Pyongyang. US Pacific Command, which oversees US forces in Asia, said North Korea launched a missile at 5.03am local time on Saturday from a location near Pukchang airfield, but that the missile “did not leave North Korean territory”. The Pentagon said the missile did not pose a threat to the US. President Donald Trump responded to the test by declaring that Pyongyang had “disrespected” China. The US is trying to convince China to ramp up pressure on North Korea to help convince Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator, to abandon his missile and nuclear weapons programmes. “North Kore