South Korea, U.S., Japan Conduct First Joint Air Exercise Near Korean Peninsula

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea, the United States, and Japan carried out their first joint air exercise near the Korean Peninsula on Sunday, as announced by Seoul's Air Force.

According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, the exercise involved a U.S. B-52H strategic bomber and fighter jets from South Korea, the United States, and Japan. The exercise took place south of the peninsula, in the overlapping air defense identification zones of South Korea and Japan.

While the U.S. Air Force has conducted separate bilateral exercises with South Korea and Japan around the peninsula, this marks the first instance of trilateral air drills in the area. Seoul's Air Force stated that the exercise was intended to implement defense agreements reached during the Camp David summit in August and to expand the three countries' response capabilities against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

The exercise follows an agreement among President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, U.S. President Joe Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to strengthen security cooperation and hold annual, named, multi-domain trilateral exercises. This agreement was made during their Camp David summit in August. Earlier this month, the three countries also held a trilateral maritime interdiction exercise south of the Korean Peninsula for the first time in seven years.

North Korea has strongly opposed the ongoing trilateral cooperation, with its leader Kim Jong-un labeling it as a "worst actual threat" last month. The country has amended its constitution to enshrine its nuclear-force building policy in response.

Last Tuesday, a U.S. B-52H nuclear-capable bomber landed at a South Korean airbase for the first time after participating in joint air drills with South Korean fighters. This deployment comes after a joint declaration by Yoon and Biden in April to enhance the regular visibility of strategic assets on the peninsula.

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