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US deploys missile destroyer fitted with latest technology to Japan

Presence of latest defense system sends message to North Korea and China

The U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Milius arrives to join Forward Deployed Naval Forces at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture, on May 22. (Photo by Kohnosuke Urata)

YOKOSUKA -- The U.S. Navy deployed a guided missile destroyer fitted with a state-of-the-art Aegis system to Japan on Tuesday, strengthening East Asia's missile defense capabilities.

The arrival of the destroyer USS Milius is a part of the navy's strategy to furnish the Indo-Pacific region with the most advanced and capable defense units. The ship joined the U.S. Navy's 7th fleet, which is stationed at Yokosuka naval base about 45km south of Tokyo. USS Milius is the 13th U.S. warship to join the base in Yokosuka, after the destroyer USS Fitzgerald left for maintenance due to severe damage caused from a collision with a merchant ship.

Its arrival was a day later than expected due to "weather and other operational considerations," said the navy in a statement.

USS Milius was initially scheduled to arrive in the summer of 2017, but the navy decided to delay deployment so that it could undergo maintenance and modernization before being sent to one of the world's complicated regions.

"We'll support the United States' commitment to defense of Japan, and security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region," said Commander Jennifer Pontius upon disembarking from the vessel she commands.

The USS Milius is equipped with the latest Aegis Baseline 9 combat system. The system provides the latest and most advanced air defense and ballistic missile defense. The ship is also capable of surface and undersea warfare.

A vertical launch missile system unit is seen on the deck of the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Milius at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka. (Photo by Kohnosuke Urata)

The deployment sends regional allies and rivals a clear message that the U.S. is committed to peacekeeping in the region.

While North Korea has indicated it agrees with a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, Pyongyang has not actually promised anything.

The presence of the USS Milius in the region will guard against any missile attacks by Pyongyang, if U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un fail to reach any meaningful resolution at the U.S.-North Korea summit on June 12 in Singapore.

The deployment also sends a signal to China that the U.S. is ready to keep a check on its growing maritime presence. China recently started testing bombers for the first time on an island in the South China Sea, a much contested area with overlapping territorial claims by multiple countries including the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

"The best thing we can do right now is to just be ready for anything that we are going to be called to do," said Commander Pontius of the ship's complex mission.

The Arleigh Burke class ship measures 153.9m, and displaces roughly 8,230 tons. There are approximately 300 officers and enlisted men and women onboard USS Milius.

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