For the first time in more than twenty years, a Dutch naval vessel has left for Japan. The air defence and command frigate HNLMS Evertsen left Saturday afternoon for Great Britain and sailed to the Far East two days later. The trip will last seven months.

The Evertsen will be part of a British fleet of which the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is the centrepiece. The Dutch frigate with its 180 crew will provide air defence for the Carrier Strike Group, which includes a total of nine ships – including a US naval vessel – and a submarine.

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‘It is a special trip,’ said a Navy spokesman. It is rare for a ship to be able to spend seven months practising at the highest level with its major allies. Exercises are also held with navies of countries in Asia.

In recent decades, the Navy has become increasingly pragmatic as a result of budget cuts and other factors. If ships were away from home for a long time, it was mainly for missions, NATO exercises or deployment in the Caribbean. A long trip with flag display to East Asia was last done in 2000 when 400 years of relations between the Netherlands and Japan were celebrated.

Strengthen ties and free passage

On the upcoming trip, ports on the Black Sea, India, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan will be visited in order to strengthen ties. ‘The Netherlands will join these port visits at the diplomatic level as much as possible. We are also looking at ways to involve industry in a number of port visits,’ said the Ministry of Defence.

The importance of the region has increased significantly in recent decades. ‘The Netherlands has great interests in stability and respect for the rule of law, human rights and free trade in this region,’ Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld wrote to the House of Representatives.

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The ships also sail through the South China Sea, a large part of which is claimed by China. The trip emphasises the free passage through international waters – also for naval forces.

The fleet started its journey on Monday. The Evertsen will return to Den Helder in mid-December.

Source: ANP