In this photo provided by the South Korean Ministry of Defense, the South Korean destroyer Yulgok Yi I, bottom, the American guided missile destroyer USS Benfold and the Japanese Self-Defense Force destroyer Atago, in the background, during a joint missile maneuvering mission. Korea, the United States and Japan, in international waters east of the Korean Peninsula, Monday, April 17, 2023. (South Korea’s Defense Ministry via AP)

SEOUL (AP) — The United States, South Korea and Japan conducted a joint missile defense exercise in waters off the Korean Peninsula on Monday, expanding military training to deal with growing threats from northern missiles. nuclear-capable Koreans.

North Korea staged one of its most provocative weapons demonstrations in years last week with the first test of a solid-fuel ICBM as part of its effort to develop a harder-to-detect weapon that could reach the American continent.

So far, North Korea’s unprecedented series of weapons tests has involved launching more than 100 projectiles of various ranges into the sea since the start of 2022. The country is trying to build a viable nuclear arsenal that will could threaten its neighbors and the United States. .

Steps taken by South Korea, Japan and the United States could trigger a combative response from Pyongyang, which views U.S. military drills with its Asian allies as invasion drills. The North has used these maneuvers as a pretext to accelerate its weapons development, creating a cycle of retaliation that has heightened tension in recent months.

Monday’s drills were held in international waters east of South Korea and focused on refining North Korean ballistic missile detection, tracking and information-sharing procedures, said said the South Korean navy. One Aegis destroyer from each country participated in the day-long exercise. On the other hand, the United States and South Korea conducted five days of aerial training with some 110 aircraft, including advanced F-35 fighters.

Also on Monday, South Korea and Japan resumed a security meeting of defense officials and top diplomats after a five-year hiatus. The meeting is one of several events showing improving relations between Seoul and Tokyo in the face of rising North Korean nuclear threats after years of historical and trade disputes.

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