South Korea, US, and Japan Conduct Joint Naval Drills in Response to North Korean Missile Test

SEOUL – In a significant display of military cooperation, South Korea, the United States, and Japan have completed joint naval exercises in the waters south of the Korean Peninsula. This development, as announced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) on Wednesday, follows North Korea's recent test of a hypersonic missile.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the joint naval drill, which included the participation of the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, was conducted from Monday to Wednesday in southeastern waters off Jeju Island. The exercise also saw the involvement of South Korea's Aegis combat system-equipped destroyers and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's Kongo-class destroyers. The trilateral exercise began a day after North Korea fired a solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile with a hypersonic warhead into the East Sea, marking its first missile launch this year.

The JCS stated that the primary aim of the exercise was to strengthen the three countries' deterrence and response capabilities against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, as well as other maritime security challenges. The exercise also focused on countermeasures against the transport of weapons of mass destruction and bolstering trilateral cooperation to uphold the rules-based international order.

This trilateral drill is the first of its kind since Washington and its Asian allies implemented a real-time information-sharing system for North Korea's missile launches. Additionally, they agreed to establish a multiyear exercise plan to more effectively counter Pyongyang's evolving threats. Admiral Kim Myung-soo, the JCS chairman, underscored the importance of the trilateral naval drill during his visit to the USS Carl Vinson on the first day of the exercise, pledging to enhance the combined military posture in line with the multiyear plan.

The exercise comes amid heightened security concerns following North Korea's latest test of a hypersonic missile, which poses a significant challenge due to its high speed, at least Mach 5, and advanced maneuverability during flight. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had previously declared the development of such high-tech weapons as a priority at a party congress in 2021, with the North conducting a test of a liquid-fuel hypersonic missile in January 2022.

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