- Joint exercise with Japan and South Korea coincides with renewed escalation with Pyongyang
The United States, Japan and South Korea will conduct a joint anti-submarine drill with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the Sea of Japan for the first time since 2017, amid tensions over North Korea’s recent missile tests.
The exercises, which will begin on Friday, will include the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan, the South Korean destroyer Menmu the Great and a Japanese Asahi-class destroyer.
The USS Ronald Reagan and three other US warships arrived in South Korea last week, and the carrier docked at the port of Busan on Friday.
“The training is part of the Defense Ministry’s steps to restore military cooperation between South Korea, the United States and Japan to a pre-2017 level, to respond to nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.” the South Korean Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
Seoul said North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday. A similar launch was reported last week, following a pattern of increased weapons tests by Pyongyang since the beginning of the year.
The escalation came as US Vice President Kamala Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol as part of her Asian tour. Harris praised the partnership between the countries as a “key piece of security and propensity” on the Korean Peninsula and on the world stage.
The White House said Harris and Yoon discussed joint responses to “potential future provocations, including through trilateral cooperation with Japan.”
Pyongyang has repeatedly said it views military exercises around the Korean peninsula involving the United States as a threat to its security. Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Monday, North Korea’s envoy Kim Song argued that the region was trapped in “a vicious circle of tension and confrontation due to the growing hostility of the United States.”
Kim added that the US-led drills increase the risk of armed conflict in the region, calling international sanctions against Pyongyang unfair.