Navy to join Japan, S. Korea in drill aimed at N. Korea weapons shipping
By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 20, 2016
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The United States, Japan and South Korea will practice detecting and stopping ships carrying weapons of mass destruction during a sea exercise this weekend.
The trilateral exercise comes in light of North Korea’s continued work on its nuclear weapons and missile program, South Korean defense officials told reporters in Seoul on Thursday.
The maritime interdiction operation will be held Saturday and Sunday in international waters south of South Korea’s Jeju Island, Yonhap News reported.
The sea services also will conduct search and rescue exercises aimed at rescuing personnel on disabled ships, the report said.
The Navy is sending the Yokosuka-based destroyer USS McCampbell, the replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe, a patrol aircraft and a helicopter, according to Yonhap.
Japan is sending the destroyer Ariake and multiple helicopters, while the destroyer Yulgok YiYi will represent South Korea, according to the report.
Officials at 7th Fleet in Japan on Thursday referred all questions on the exercise to the Defense Department in Washington, where no one was immediately available for comment.
Although relations have been strained between South Korea and Japan in recent years, the U.S. and its two northeast Asia allies have agreed to share intelligence regarding North Korea.
On Oct. 14, senior military officials from Japan and South Korea met with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and regional commanders at the Pentagon.
They called on North Korea to “refrain from irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional tensions, and to instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments,” according to a Pentagon statement.
Two days later, U.S. officials said they detected what they suspected was a failed Musudan intermediate-range rocket launch near Kusong, North Korea.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff called the launch an “illegal act of provocation” in a statement Sunday. United Nations Security Council resolutions bar North Korea from continuing work on its nuclear program.