Japan, US conduct joint naval drill amid North Korea tensions
Japan and the United States conducted a joint naval exercise on Sunday involving three of the US Navy’s aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan, as part of a US strike force exercise amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force said three escort vessels – the Ise, Makinami and Inazuma – carried out the drill with the US flat-tops Ronald Reagan, Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt – the first three-carrier exercise in the western Pacific since 2007.
Tensions have been running high since North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, its most powerful yet, in September and test-fired several missiles in recent months.
The US began the four-day exercises on Saturday in a show of military force meant to pressure North Korea, which is pursuing its nuclear and missile development programmes despite international condemnation.
US President Donald Trump, in the middle of a trip to Asia, has been calling for added pressure on Pyongyang in his talks with regional leaders.
“We were able to show to countries including North Korea strong bonds and ties between Japan and the United States,” Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the Japanese Self-Defence Forces Joint Staff, told reporters in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan.
South Korea is also sending vessels to take part in the US Navy’s exercise. Its Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Saturday that the exercise is “aimed at enhancing deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats”.