S. Korea, US & Japan to hold joint drills to counter N.Korea's threats
Seoul, Jan 20: South Korea, the US and Japan will hold joint maritime drills from Friday to enhance their capability to detect and trail North Korean ballistic missiles, a media report quoted the South Korean navy as saying.
The missile warning exercise would be conducted from Friday to Sunday in waters near the three nations, mobilising three Aegis-equipped destroyers, Yonhap news agency said.
South Korea's Sejong, a 7,600-ton Aegis-equipped vessel, would be mobilised, together with the 8,800-ton USS Curtis Wilbur and Japan's Kirishima Aegis destroyers.
The exercise to jointly detect and trail the ballistic missiles would be the third of its kind since the first was held in June 2016 near the US island of Hawaii. The second was staged in November that year.
It is expected to strengthen missile defence (MD) cooperation between the three countries, Xinhua news agency reported.
Seoul and Washington agreed in July 2016 to deploy a US missile shield, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, in the former's southeastern region by the end of 2017.
The THAAD deployment indicates South Korea in effect becoming a part of the US missile defence system. China and Russia have strongly opposed the installation as its X-band radar can peer into territories of the two nations.
A South Korean news agency cited Seoul's navy as saying that during the exercise, the three countries would share simulated military intelligences on missile detection and trail.
The three allies signed a trilateral military pact in December 2014, to share Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threats.
South Korea inked a similar military intelligence pact with Japan in November 2016 despite opposition from the general public and its parliament.
Participating Aegis destroyers from the US and Japan were reportedly equipped with SM-3 interceptors that could shoot down incoming missiles at an altitude of over 500 km.
Citing unnamed US and South Korean sources, Yonhap reported on Thursday that Pyongyang already produced a new type of two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that were being mounted on mobile launchers.
Seoul's military believed that Pyongyang could test-launch its ICBM at any time when the leadership decides.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in his new year speech that his country had entered a final stage to prepare for the test-fire of a long-range ballistic rocket, indicating the ICBM test-launch in the foreseeable future.