The militaries of South Korea, the United States and Japan held their first-ever trilateral air exercise on Sunday in response to evolving North Korean nuclear threats, the South Korean Air Force said.
The training, held near the Korean Peninsula, was aimed at putting into practice the agreement previously reached by the three countries to increase defense cooperation and increase their joint response capacity against North Korean threats, according to the military. air in a statement.
According to the statement, a U.S. nuclear-capable B-52 bomber and fighter jets from South Korea and Japan participated in the drill.
South Korea and Japan are two key U.S. allies in Asia, hosting about 80,000 U.S. troops together.
The three countries have occasionally held trilateral maritime exercises, such as anti-submarine or anti-missile defense exercises. Still, Sunday’s training marked the first time they had conducted a trilateral air exercise.
Expanding military exercises with Japan in South Korea is a sensitive issue because many still harbor strong resentment against Japan’s brutal 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula. However, the advance of the North’s nuclear program has pushed South Korea’s conservative President, Yoon Suk Yeol, to move beyond historical disputes with Japan and strengthen trilateral security cooperation with the United States and Japan.
In August, Yoon, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met at Camp David for their countries’ first independent trilateral summit and agreed to strengthen their defense cooperation to confront South Korea’s nuclear threats. North. The three leaders decided to hold annual trilateral exercises and launch real-time missile warning data sharing over North Korea by the end of the year.
Yesterday’s drill could prompt a furious response from North Korea, which has long opposed U.S. training exercises with South Korea, calling them an invasion rehearsal and responding with missile tests. The North criticized the Camp David agreement and accused the leaders of the United States, South Korea and Japan of plotting nuclear war provocations on the Korean Peninsula. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called Yoon, Biden and Kishida “gang leaders” of the three countries.
Concern about North Korea’s nuclear program has increased after it enacted a law last year authorizing the preventive use of nuclear weapons and has since openly threatened to use them in potential conflicts with the United States and South Korea.
Hyung Jin Kim