AP on the USS George Washington, the US Navy’s Japan-based aircraft carrier heading home and set to be relieved by the USS Ronald Reagan:

China’s aircraft carrier ambitions demonstrate the continuing importance of the mammoth ships in the western Pacific, a senior U.S. Navy officer said Monday, as America’s Japan-based carrier began a long journey home.

A symbol of American power in the Pacific, the USS George Washington left the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, its home port for the past seven years. It will be replaced by the USS Ronald Reagan, a newer version of the same ship.

“Everybody asks whether the aircraft carriers are obsolete,” Navy Rear Admiral John Alexander said at a dockside news conference before the ship departed. “I would say when other countries are building an aircraft carrier, they’re doing it for a reason, and the fact is you can actually have a bigger influence in the region.”

The USS Ronald Reagan will arrive in its new homeport in Yokosuka, Japan later this year, sometime in Autumn, and will become the flagship for Carrier Strike Group Five.