• Kyodo

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The Japanese destroyer Yuugiri accompanied a U.S. aircraft carrier and cruiser as they sailed Saturday morning into Otaru port in Hokkaido.

The 3,500-ton Yuugiri would “strengthen friendship and good will” between the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy by accompanying the Kitty Hawk, and would not be guarding the carrier, MSDF officials said earlier, brushing off criticism by citizens’ groups that the MSDF and the U.S. Navy are promoting integration.

The groups maintain that integration would amount to exercising the right of collective defense. The pacifist Constitution is interpreted as banning the exercising of this right.

The Yuugiri, based in Ominato, Aomori Prefecture, conducted a joint exercise with the flattop before they sailed into Otaru, according to MSDF officials.

The Kitty Hawk is the third U.S. carrier to enter Otaru port.

The Yuugiri is expected to leave Otaru on Wednesday along with the two U.S. warships.

According to officials familiar with military affairs, an aircraft carrier is exposed to “the highest risk when it enters or leaves a port” because it cannot move quickly and its aircraft cannot be used.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in the United States, about 10 MSDF vessels accompanied the Kitty Hawk when it left Yokosuka port for the stated purpose of “investigation and research,” according to the MSDF officials.

The move was criticized at the time as a de facto exercising of the right of collective defense.

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