The Associated Press
Japan, South Korea and the United States conducted a joint missile defense exercise in mid-April 2023 in waters near the Korean Peninsula as they expand military training to counter growing threats from North Korea
Days earlier, North Korea conducted one of its most provocative weapons demonstrations in years by flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile powered by solid propellants, as it pursues a weapon that could target the continental U.S.
North Korea’s unprecedented run of weapons tests has involved more than 100 missiles fired into the sea since the start of 2022 as the regime attempts to build a viable nuclear arsenal.
The Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy said the trilateral drills took place in international waters off the country’s east coast and focused on mastering procedures for detecting, tracking and sharing information on incoming North Korean ballistic missiles. The one-day exercise involved an Aegis weapon system-equipped destroyer from each country. (Pictured, from front: The Republic of Korea Navy destroyer Yulgok Yi I, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Benfold and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Atago conduct a joint missile defense drill in mid-April 2023.)
“The drills’ goal is to improve our response capabilities against ballistic missiles and strengthen our ability to conduct joint operations as North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats continue to escalate,” ROK Navy spokesman Jang Do-young said. Japan’s Joint Staff, meanwhile, stressed the need to strengthen trilateral cooperation as the “security environment surrounding Japan increasingly becomes severe.”
South Korea and the U.S. also launched drills involving 110 planes, including F-35 fighter jets.
The aerial drills enhance combined air power execution and train crews to respond in combat scenarios involving surface-to-air and air-to-air threats, according to the militaries. The drills “reaffirm the U.S.’s ironclad commitment to the ROK,” the U.S. 7th Air Force said in a statement.
Also in mid-April, Japan and South Korea resumed a security meeting of senior diplomats and defense officials following a five-year hiatus, one of many recent signs of strengthening ties between Seoul and Tokyo in the face of North Korea’s evolving nuclear threats.
Days before the joint military exercises, an ROK Navy vessel fired warning shots to repel a North Korean patrol vessel that crossed the countries’ disputed western sea boundary while chasing a Chinese fishing boat.
IMAGE CREDIT: SOUTH KOREA DEFENSE MINISTRY/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS