Japan is set to deploy its first aircraft carriers since World War II. The Japanese Navy will modernize two helicopter destroyers into de facto aircraft carriers. This will increase the number of carrier operators in the Asia-Pacific region.
Historically the Imperial Japanese Navy placed a heavy emphasis on aircraft carriers. The Hōshō, when she was commissioned on December 27, 1922, was the first purpose built aircraft carrier in the world. Going into the Battle of Midway in June 1942 Japan had the largest aircraft carrier fleet in the world. This did not last. By the end of the war many carriers had been sunk, mostly by the U.S. Navy. After the war the remaining carriers were scrapped and Japan entered a period of disarmament, adopting a Constitution in 1947 that forbade the maintenance of forces that could wage war.
Amid the Korean War and Cold War, with U.S. support, military capabilities were rebuilt for the purpose of self-defense, which was deemed constitutional.
Recently Japan’s neighbors have began acquiring carriers. China is building a fleet of large aircraft carriers. One of them, Shandong, sailed through the Taiwan Strait on November 17 with fighter jets on deck. The passage, which could be interpreted as a show of force, was reportedly trailed by U.S Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) vessels. South Korea is also planning its first jet-equipped carriers.