South Korea, US, Japan to Hold Missile Defence Drills to Counter North Korea

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Hyonhee Shi

SEOUL (Reuters - South Korea will hold joint missile defence exercises with the United States on Monday, as part of their efforts to increase security cooperation in order to counter North Korea’s ever-changing missile threats.

The announcement comes just days after the trilateral talks held in Washington between the three countries, where they agreed to regular anti-submarine and missile defence exercises as part efforts to increase diplomatic and military co-operation.

The drills, which will take place in international waters between Korea, Japan and the U.S., will feature South Korea's Yulgok I destroyer with a 7,600 ton Aegis system, as well as the USS Benfold guided-missile destroyer and Japan's Atago, both equipped with Aegis radars.

South Korean Navy said that the three countries will focus on establishing a virtual target in the case of a North Korean missile provocation. This includes tracking, detection and information sharing.

In a press release, Captain Kim Kiyoung, the South Korean destroyer's captain, said that this was an opportunity to enhance trilateral security co-operation against North Korea's increasing nuclear and missile threat. He also said it would strengthen our navy's ability and posture to counter ballistic missiles.

In recent weeks, tensions have been rising as the North has intensified its military activities. On Friday, it tested a solid-fuel intercontinental missile that would allow missiles to be launched without much warning.

Pyongyang has threatened to take "more offensive and practical" actions as South Korea and U.S. troops have been conducting their annual springtime drills since March. Some of these exercises included Japan. Pyongyang called them a practice for nuclear war.

Separately, the South Korean and U.S. Air Forces will begin their 12-day drills Monday.

After a five-year hiatus, South Korea, Japan and senior diplomats and security officials resumed "two-plus-2" talks in Seoul on Monday. This was in response to a warming of relations after a long-running feud over issues related to wartime history.

Yoon Suk Yeol, the South Korean president, has promised to build on the ties that have existed for 12 years. He visited Tokyo in march of this year as the leader of the country.