A US aircraft carrier joined warships from Japan and South Korea for their first joint naval interdiction drills in seven years, as Washington has accused North Korea of making illicit weapons shipments to Russia.
(Bloomberg) — A US aircraft carrier joined warships from Japan and South Korea for their first joint naval interdiction drills in seven years, as Washington has accused North Korea of making illicit weapons shipments to Russia.
The two-day exercise that wraps up Tuesday included the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group, an Aegis-equipped destroyer from South Korea and a destroyer from Japan, South Korea’s Navy said in a statement. The drill, which simulates intercepting smuggling vessels, was held in international waters, south of the South Korean island of Jeju.
The exercise enhanced the capabilities of the three to respond to maritime security threats from the likes of North Korea, the statement said. Prior to the drills, naval commanders from the three met on the Ronald Reagan to discuss ways to bolster their responses against North Korean missile threats and follow up on an agreement to share real-time data on flights.
The aircraft carrier group will make a port call in Busan from Thursday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said. The move is certain to rile North Korea, which has demanded the US remove nuclear weapons assets from the region and tested ballistic missiles in shows of anger that coincided with previous deployments.
North Korea last fired two short-range ballistic missiles just ahead of a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Vladimir Putin on Sept. 13 at the Vostochny Cosmodrome space center in the Amur region.
For months the US has accused North Korea of supplying munitions to help Putin’s war in Ukraine, something Moscow and Pyongyang have denied. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told a news briefing at the time of the summit that “pariah” Putin was “traveling across his own country, hat in hand, to beg Kim Jong Un for military assistance.”
Rail traffic between North Korea and Russia spiked after the summit between Kim and Putin, the Beyond Parallel website said, citing satellite imagery. The two are also suspected of making illicit shipments at sea. Before the summit, a North Korean freighter left a port near the site of North Korean munitions plants to make a cargo delivery to Russia, specialist service NK News reported, based on tracking data and satellite imagery.
Putin pledged to help Kim place a satellite in orbit after Pyongyang failed twice this year to successfully launch space rockets. South Korea officials have warned that Kim may be looking at another launch this month, to coincide with celebrations to mark the anniversary of the founding of Pyongyang’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on Oct. 10, 1945.
Kim has ignored US calls to return to long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks. But he has been busy modernizing his arsenal of missiles and conducting tests of systems to attack South Korea and Japan, which host the bulk of US military personnel in the region.
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