Korea, Japan, U.S. to hold joint missile drill

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Korea, Japan, U.S. to hold joint missile drill

South Korea, Japan and the United States will hold their first joint missile defense drill in Hawaii next month, the Ministry of National Defense said on Monday.

The trilateral antimissile defense drill is expected to kick off on June 28 and will take place on the sidelines of Rimpac, or the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise. This multinational naval maneuver, which takes place every two years, will last between June 30 and Aug. 4.

Moon Sang-gyun, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said that Seoul is partaking in the trilateral drill designed to detect missile launches from North Korea and track their trajectories, “for more effective defense” against Pyongyang’s threats and in line with the three countries’ intelligence-sharing pact.

A trilateral intelligence-sharing agreement was signed by Seoul, Tokyo and Washington in December 2014, with the three agreeing on cooperation against North Korea’s increasing nuclear and missile threats.

“This is a drill on information-sharing in case North Korea launches a missile, where the three countries will cooperate in tracing the missile after its detection,” a South Korean defense official added.

It will mark the first time Seoul, Tokyo and Washington will be holding a drill on a network to share information in real time on a possible North Korean missile attack, the official said.

Under the Trilateral Information Sharing Agreement, Washington acts as an intermediary between South Korea and Japan, who do not directly share information with each other. The drill is expected to follow this format.

The three countries will also each deploy an Aegis destroyer to take part in the drill.

South Korea will deploy the 7,600-ton Aegis-equipped warship, Sejong the Great, which is equipped with a SPY-1D radar that can detect the velocity and type of a missile as far as 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away.

In lieu of a ballistic missile, Washington is expected to fly an aircraft. It is not yet clear if the aircraft will serve as the target or if it will fire a separate target.

This comes following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January, a long-range missile launch in February and other continued military provocations.

There is speculation that the trilateral drill will draw ire from Beijing, especially as Washington and Seoul are in the midst of negotiations over whether to deploy a U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) battery in Korea.

However, a Korean defense official said the drill is “unrelated to the issue of [Seoul] participating in the U.S. missile defense system.” He added that Seoul will be building its locally-developed Korea Air and Missile Defense system “and through this drill enable information interoperability.”

Placement of the Thaad system in Korea has been controversial because it comes with a powerful radar system that can cover more than 1,000 kilometers.

While Seoul and Washington stressed that the deployment is intended to defend South Korea and the U.S. Forces Korea against the North, China and Russia have countered that the radar can be used as a means of surveillance against them.

BY SARAH KIM, JEONG YONG-SOO [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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