• Kyodo

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Defense Minister Tomomi Inada visited the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka on Tuesday and went aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan in a show of close ties between the two allies amid China’s increasingly assertive maritime activities.

Earlier, the new defense minister toured the Maritime Self-Defense Force portion of the base, her first visit to an MSDF facility since taking up her post early this month.

She inspected the 19,500-ton helicopter carrier Izumo, the MSDF’s largest warship, and instructed MSDF staff to do their utmost to conduct warning and surveillance duties amid China’s aggressiveness.

“China is continuing its unilateral attempt to change the status quo through force, by rapidly spreading and intensifying its activities in the sea and air space around our country,” Inada said in remarks to MSDF personnel.

“I will also work on strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance,” she said, adding that the alliance plays an “extremely important role” in ensuring peace and stability of the Asian-Pacific region and the international community.

In the afternoon, Inada met with Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, and Rear Adm. Matthew Carter, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan, aboard the Ronald Reagan.

Inada is known for her rapport with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on security and foreign policy and has been outspoken on historical issues involving Japan’s Asian neighbors. She had earlier been chairwoman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council and administrative reform minister.

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