U.S. President Donald Trump has been invited to inspect the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s largest vessel during his visit to Japan early next month, Japanese government sources said Thursday.
Trump would be the first U.S. president to visit the helicopter carrier Izumo, which was commissioned in March 2015.
Both Tokyo and Washington appear keen to use Trump’s visit to display the strength of the Japan-U.S. defense alliance as North Korea continues to threaten the region with nuclear and ballistic missiles.
In May, the Izumo engaged in the MSDF’s first U.S. naval escort mission, accompanying a U.S. supply ship off Japan’s Pacific coast.
“(The Izumo) is a ship that symbolizes Japan-U.S. defense cooperation and Japan’s defense capabilities,” a government source said.
An inspection could include Trump being welcomed by an SDF honor guard aboard the 19,500-ton helicopter carrier, according to the sources.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte went aboard the Izumo when it visited his country in June, and British Prime Minister Theresa May inspected it at its home port of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, during her visit to Japan in August.
Then-U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter did the same last December.
Trump’s visit is scheduled for Nov. 5 to 7, during which he is set to hold a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Nov. 6.
He is also expected to meet Emperor Akihito and separately with the kin of the Japanese abducted by North Korean agents decades ago, including the parents of Megumi Yokota, who was 13 when she was abducted in 1977. Trump mentioned Yokota in his address at the U.N. General Assembly last month.
After Japan, Trump is set to visit South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
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