Japan welcomes deployment of US aircraft carrier

Japan's government welcomed Friday the announcement that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington will arrive later this month at its new home base south of Tokyo, reported AP.

The George Washington, which can carry a crew of up to 5,600 and 70 aircraft, will replace the USS Kitty Hawk as the U.S. Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier. It is to arrive on Sept. 25 at the port of Yokosuka.

"The government of Japan welcomes the arrival of the USS George Washington, as the continuous strong presence of the U.S. Navy will contribute to the security of Japan and the maintenance of peace and security of the region," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, the Navy said in a statement announcing the arrival date that the deployment of the carrier demonstrates America's commitment to providing "the most advanced capabilities" to the U.S. 7th fleet, which is home-ported in Yokosuka.

The arrival of the carrier has been controversial, however, because it is expected to bring a small increase in the number of sailors based at Yokosuka and also because of concerns of a possible accident or leakage from its nuclear reactor.

The Kitty Hawk, which is to be decommissioned, was conventionally powered.

The U.S. Navy disclosed in early August that the USS Houston, a submarine, had leaked water containing radiation during several calls to Sasebo and Okinawa in southern Japan and Yokosuka between July 2006 and April 2008. But a Navy investigation concluded the leakage in the three ports totaled 0.6 micro curies, or less than one-millionth of a curie, which posed no danger to Japan.

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