S Korea, US, Japan hold maritime anti-smuggling drills

Published : 10 Oct 2023 08:05 PM

South Korea, the United States and Japan concluded a joint maritime drill on Tuesday that simulated intercepting North Korean smuggling vessels, Seoul's navy said.

The two-day exercise was the first of its kind in seven years, as the three countries ramp up cooperation in the face of threats from Pyongyang.

It was aimed at enhancing their "deterrence and response against North Korea's recently advancing nuclear and missile threats", the navy said in a statement. It added that the drill was a "follow-up" to an agreement made at an August summit aimed at presenting a unified front to an increasingly belligerent North Korea, the navy said.

Taking part in the exercises off the waters of Jeju island were South Korea's Aegis-equipped destroyer Yulgok Yi I, the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and Japan's JS Hyuga destroyer, among other ships.

The nuclear-powered US carrier and other ships from its naval strike group will make a five-day visit to the southern port city of Busan later this week, the defence ministry said.

Faced with a record-breaking series of North Korean missile launches, the conservative government of President Yoon Suk Yeol has made a concerted effort to improve historically strained ties with Japan, the country's former colonial ruler. In August, Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took part in a three-way summit hosted by US President Joe Biden at Camp David, agreeing to a multi-year plan of regular joint exercises.

The leaders also agreed to share real-time data on North Korea.

The Camp David meeting marked the first time the three leaders had met for a standalone summit, rather than on the sidelines of a larger event.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was quick to slam the plans for trilateral drills, saying the countries' "gang bosses" had made the waters around the Korean peninsula "the most unstable waters with the danger of a nuclear war". Pyongyang has pledged to launch a military spy satellite into orbit this month after two earlier failed attempts, most recently in August.