US, allies conduct more drills in face of N. Korean threat
The United States, South Korea and Japan will conduct a joint missile defence exercise on Monday in waters near the Korean Peninsula
The United States, South Korea and Japan will conduct a joint missile defence exercise on Monday in waters near the Korean Peninsula as they expand military training to counter the growing threats of North Korea's nuclear-capable missiles, the South Korean navy said.
Last week, North Korea conducted one of its most provocative weapons demonstrations in years by flight-testing for the first time an intercontinental ballistic missile powered by solid propellants, as it pursues a weapon that's more responsive, harder to detect and could directly target the continental United States.
North Korea's unprecedented run of weapons tests has so far involved more than 100 missiles of various ranges fired into the sea since the start of 2022 as the country attempts to build a viable nuclear arsenal that could threaten its rival neighbours and the United States.
The exercises on Monday may trigger a belligerent response from North Korea, which condemns the United States' military drills with its Asian allies as invasion rehearsals.
The North has used those drills as a pretext to accelerate its own weapons development, creating a cycle of tit-for-tat that has raised tensions in recent months.
South Korea's navy said Monday's three-way naval drills will take place in international waters off the country's eastern coast and will be focused on mastering the procedures for detecting, tracking and sharing information on incoming North Korean ballistic missiles.
The naval exercise involves an Aegis destroyer from each country and comes as the United States and South Korea also launch separate aerial drills involving some 110 warplanes, including advanced F-35 fighter jets.
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, Jang Do-young, a spokesperson of South Korea's navy, said in a news briefing.
The US-South Korean aerial drills beginning on Monday and continuing through April 28 are aimed at sharpening combined operational abilities and demonstrating the countries' joint defense postures in the face of North Korean threats, Seoul's Defence Ministry said.
The United States and South Korea conducted their biggest filed exercises in years in March and have also held separate naval and aerial drills involving a US aircraft carrier battle group and nuclear-capable B-52 bombers.
The drills triggered fierce protests from the North as it dialled up its own testing activity, test-firing two ICBMs and nearly 20 shorter-range weapons since March.
Monday marks 11-straight days that North Korea has not responded to South Korean checkup calls on a set of cross-border inter-Korean hotlines, South Korean officials say, raising concerns about potential kinetic provocations.
Communications on those channels are meant to prevent accidental clashes along the rivals' sea borders.