More bad news today for dictator Kim Jong-Un as the French warship Mistral arrived in Japan as a show of force to try and stop North Korea.
The Mistral class is a class of three amphibious assault ships, also known as a helicopter carrier, of the French Navy. Referred to as “projection and command ships”, a Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 NH90 or Tiger helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 AMX Leclerc tanks, or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion,3 and 450 soldiers. The ships are equipped with a 69-bed hospital, and are capable of serving as part of a NATO Response Force, or with United Nations or European Union peace-keeping forces.
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 programs.
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.
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