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Women to Command Japanese Destroyers
March 25, 2013

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Japanese women can now command the country's frontline warships, after the Maritime Self Defense Force appointed two women to command destroyers.

The women are Miho Otani, commanding the JS Shimayuki, and Royko Azuma, commanding the JS Setoyuki. The ships and their crews work closely with the U.S. 7th Fleet, the home port for which is in Yokosuka.

The commands are the first for women and are part of a wider review of the Japanese armed forces by the new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, in the wake of an ongoing dispute over ownership of a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China and Taiwan, contain large amounts of natural gas, and the waters surrounding the islands are rich in fishing opportunities. The ownership disagreement has increased in severity in recent weeks, with one Chinese warship recently locking its fire-control radar on a Japanese destroyer near the islands.

Women have commanded U.S. Navy ships since 1990. An amphibious landing ship now assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet is commanded by a female officer.

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