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The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force guided-missile destroyer JS Chokai and South Korean guided-missile destroyer ROKS Sejong The Great conduct a ballistic missile defense exercise in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force guided-missile destroyer JS Chokai and South Korean guided-missile destroyer ROKS Sejong The Great conduct a ballistic missile defense exercise in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. (U.S. Navy)

Warships from the United States, Japan and South Korea commenced a ballistic missile defense exercise Thursday in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, according to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

The drills came the same day North Korea fired a pair of short-range ballistic missiles off its eastern coast and two days after it launched an intermediate-range weapon over Japan.

Also Thursday, South Korea scrambled more than 30 aircraft in response to a dozen North Korean warplanes flying near the South’s border.

U.S. ships involved in Thursday’s exercise were the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville and guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, which are part of the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, the INDOPACOM release said.

The other vessels were Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers JS Chokai and JS Ashigara and South Korea’s destroyer ROKS Sejong the Great.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced Wednesday that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group would redeploy to the South’s eastern coast due to an uptick in North Korean activity. The group had made a port call in and around Busan on Sept. 23.

North Korea, known formally as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, has launched roughly 40 missiles so far this year, a record.

“The United States, [South Korea] and Japan strongly condemns the DPRK’s launches, which violate numerous, unanimous mandates of the United Nations Security Council,” the INDOPACOM release said.

The exercise on Thursday was intended to demonstrate “the strength of the trilateral relationship with our Japan and [South Korea] allies, which is forward-leaning, reflective of our shared values, and resolute against those who challenge regional stability,” the release said.

The three nations carried out trilateral anti-submarine warfare drills in waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula late last month “to cope with the North Korean nuclear and missile threat,” South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said in a news release on Sept. 29.

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

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