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Japan's largest warship to tour South China Sea

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TOKYO: Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, three sources said, in what is its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War II.

China claims almost all the disputed waters and its growing military presence has fuelled concern in Japan and the West, with the United States holding regular air and naval patrols to ensure freedom of navigation.

The Izumo helicopter carrier, commissioned only two years ago, will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before joining the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and US vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.

A source said Japan wants to invite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has pushed ties with China recently as he has criticised the old alliance with the US, to visit the Izumo when it visits Subic Bay.

Japan does not have any claim to the waters, but has a separate maritime dispute with China in the East China Sea.

A spokesman for Japan's Maritime Self Defence Force declined to comment. - REUTERS

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