The latest round of military drills involving the US, Japan and South Korea began their latest set of tracking drills on Monday, DW reported, citing sources in the South Korean military.
The drills – which are meant for “practicing tracking an object and sharing information on it among the three countries” – were being held in waters off the coast of Japan, according to Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.
The US and its regional allies are stepping up their military drills in response to North Korea’s decision to test-launch the Hwasong-15, a new ICBM that US intelligence believes has the capacity to strike Washington, DC, as well as nearly any other part of the US – though the degree of accuracy remains questionable.
In response to drills held last week, North Korea warned that it is “ready for nuclear war” with the US. Though its threats have long rung hollow, US, South Korean and Japanese intelligence officials say that the North might soon attain the ability to load a nuclear warhead on its newest ICBM, which would enable it to launch a nuclear strike – or possibly an equally devastating EMP attack.
The exercises are the sixth since June 2016. Two US ships and one each from Japan and South Korea are involved. Meanwhile, the US’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) has been deployed in South Korea, infuriating Chinese leaders, who claim there’s little distinction between a missile-defense system and a missile launcher. According to DW, Beijing also worries that THAAD’s radar can peer deep into Chinese territory, compromising its own security.
Following the North’s November test, the US warned Pyongyang that its leadership would be “utterly destroyed” if war erupted. Since then, the Pentagon has staged several shows of force after North Korean military tests.
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