TOKYO - The Japanese navy said Tuesday it had for the first time appointed a woman as commander of a unit that includes the country's biggest warship.

Ryoko Azuma, 44, will command four warships making up a division with a total of 1,000 crew members. "This is the first time a woman was appointed for the job," a spokesman for the Maritime Self-Defence Force told AFP. "But she wasn't chosen because she was a woman."

The ships include the helicopter carrier Izumo, the navy's biggest ship. "I want to do my best to carry out the heavy duty I have been given," Azuma told reporters after a ceremony at Yokohama near Tokyo to mark her arrival in the post. About 400 crew members attended the ceremony. "I don't think about being a woman but I want to try to become a role model for younger female officers," she said. About 14,000 women are currently serving in the Self-Defence Forces as the military is known, accounting for only six percent of the entire personnel.