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The guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur, left, and USS Mustin are anchored off the Korean coast in October 2015.
The guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur, left, and USS Mustin are anchored off the Korean coast in October 2015. (Courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Ships from the United States, Japan and South Korea kicked off drills Tuesday aimed at countering the growing missile threat from North Korea.

The “trilateral missile warning informational link exercise” runs through Wednesday off the Korean peninsula in the Sea of Japan, a Navy statement said.

Ships will use data-link systems to share communications, intelligence and other data during drills designed to “enhance tactical capabilities, increase self-defense, strengthen partnerships, and improved situational awareness,” the statement said.

Participating vessels include the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur, Japanese guided-missile destroyer JS Kirishima and South Korean destroyer Sejong the Great. All are equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which is able to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

The Navy has several Aegis-equipped ships forward-deployed to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, where they could be the first responders to missiles fired at Japan.

North Korea eyes Japanese cities and U.S. bases as possible targets for missile strikes. In a test earlier this month, North Korea launched four medium-range ballistic missiles toward Japan, with the projectiles landing about 200 miles off the country’s coast. North Korea’s state-run news agency said the “rocket launching drill” was conducted by Hwasong artillery units “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency.”

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which recently wrapped up joint drills with Japan in the East China Sea, arrived in the area this week to take part in annual war games underway with South Korea.

hlavac.tyler@stripes.com

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