SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Warships from South Korea, the United States and Japan held their first military anti-submarine exercises in five years on Friday, after Pyongyang this week resumed ballistic missile tests apparently in response to joint training sessions in Seoul and Washington.
The recent launches of five missiles by North Korea, the first tests of their kind in a month, also took place before and after US Vice President Kamala Harris visited South Korea on Thursday and reaffirmed Washington’s strong commitment to the safety of its allies in Asia.
The day-long trilateral training off the east coast of the Korean peninsula is aimed at countering North Korea’s attempts to advance its ability to fire missiles from submarines, the South Korean navy said in a statement.
In recent years, North Korea has been building large submarines, including a nuclear-powered one, and testing modern missiles that can be launched from them. This is alarming for Pyongyang’s opponents because submarine missile launches are more difficult to detect in advance.
The US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, as well as US, South Korean and Japanese destroyers are taking part in Friday’s drills, the navy said. During the exercises, ships from the three nations must search for and follow a US nuclear submarine that assumes the role of a North Korean submarine while exchanging information, according to news reports.
“We will respond and neutralize any form of North Korean provocation in a crushing and decisive manner,” Capt. Cho Chung-ho, commander of the South Korean naval troops who participated in the exercise, said in a statement, according to the statement.
In addition to its submarine-launched missiles, North Korea possesses nuclear-capable missiles with striking ranges at the United States, South Korea and Japan.