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S. Korea, US and Japan Hold Drills     09/30 06:10

   

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea, U.S. and Japanese warships launched 
their first trilateral anti-submarine drills in five years on Friday, after 
North Korea renewed missile tests this week in an apparent response to 
bilateral training by South Korean and U.S. forces.

   The North's recent five missiles launches, the first such tests in a month, 
also came before and after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited South 
Korea on Thursday and reaffirmed the "ironclad" U.S. commitment to the security 
of its Asian allies.

   The one-day three-nation training off the Korean Peninsula's east coast is 
meant to cope with a North Korean push to advance its ability to fire missile 
from submarines, according to a South Korean navy statement.

   North Korea has been building bigger submarines including a nuclear-powered 
one and testing sophisticated missiles that can be fired from them in recent 
years. That's an alarming development for its rivals because it's harder to 
detect underwater-launched missiles in advance.

   South Korean officials said last weekend that they had detected signs that 
North Korea was preparing to test-fire a missile from a submarine.

   Friday's drills involve the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald 
Reagan as well as U.S., South Korean and Japanese destroyers, the navy 
statement said. During the training, the navy ships from the three nations were 
to search and track a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine posing as a North Korean 
submarine while exchanging related information, according to media reports.

   "We will respond and neutralize any forms of North Korean provocations in an 
overwhelming and decisive manner," Capt. Cho, Chung-ho, commander of South 
Korean navy troops who took part in the training, was quoted as saying in the 
statement.

   In addition to its submarine-launched missiles, North Korea has also a 
variety of nuclear-capable missiles that place both the United States and its 
allies South Korea and Japan within striking distance. This year, North Korea 
has performed a record number of missile tests as it refuses to resume 
long-stalled nuclear diplomacy with the United States.

   Friday's training comes as South Korea and Japan are looking to mend ties 
frayed over history and trade disputes. The two Asian countries together host a 
total of 80,000 American troops. Earlier this week, the Reagan took part in 
joint U.S.-South Korean drills near the peninsula, the first such bilateral 
involving a U.S. aircraft carrier since 2017.

   The North's most recent missile tests happened on Thursday, hours after 
Harris left South Korea. During her visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating 
the two Koreas, Harris said: "In the South, we see a thriving democracy. In the 
North, we see a brutal dictatorship."

 
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