SEOUL (Bloomberg): The US, Japan and South Korea held a joint military drill to practise hunting for missiles from the likes of North Korea in their first such exercise since the leaders of the three nations pledged to improve security cooperation.
Destroyers equipped with the Aegis system to track and shoot down missiles were used in the drills Tuesday (Aug 29) south of South Korea’s Jeju Island, South Korea’s military said. The exercises were focused on detecting and monitoring projectiles, and then sharing information about hypothetical North Korean ballistic missile launches.
The exercises were intended to "strengthen the response posture and capabilities against North Korea’s escalating nuclear and missile threats,” South Korea’s navy said in a statement.
President Joe Biden, South Korean leader Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged at the summit in the US earlier this month to share real-time data about missile launches. They also agreed to launch multifaceted military exercises they said would take their trilateral defense cooperation to unprecedented levels.
Getting on the same page as quickly as possible is essential given that a ballistic missile launched from North Korea could reach all of South Korea in a few minutes and most of Japan in less than 15 minutes.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reminded the trio of the threat his state poses to the region when he held celebrations to mark the anniversary of the founding of his country’s navy 74 years ago. He used the occasion to pledge to expand the use of tactical nuclear weapons at sea, the official Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday.
Kim also hosted a banquet to honor the navy and posed for pictures with service members along with his preteen daughter. She’s been at the leader’s side for events that have included missile launches and state functions, likely to signal that the Kim dynasty that has ruled the country since its founding will continue.
Pyongyang has bristled at military exercises by its biggest foes - the US, Japan and South Korea. Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of the leader, earlier this year threatened to turn the Pacific Ocean into Pyongyang’s firing range if drills were not halted.
Last week, North Korea failed for the second time in about three months to put a spy satellite into orbit when its rocket had troubles soon after launch. That incident dealt a blow to Kim Jong-un, who wants a reconnaissance probe to keep an eye on US forces.
The launch coincided with separate joint military drills by South Korea and the US that run through the end of this month. Those exercises have prompted Pyongyang to threaten retaliate against what it sees as a prelude to invasion.