In the midst of stress over North Korea’s string of missile tests, the navies of South Korea, the United States, and Japan conducted trilateral anti-submarine drills on Friday for the first time in five years.
A day after North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the ocean off its east coast and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Seoul and the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas, the drills were conducted in international waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula.
The North has conducted three similar launches in the past five days, totaling an unparalleled number of missile launches this year.
The exercises, according to a statement from the South Korean navy, ‘are intended to improve their capability to respond to increasing North Korean submarine threats, including its submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) at a time when it consistently poses nuclear and missile threats with a series of ballistic missile tests.’
The drills, according to the U.S. navy, will improve tactical and technical cooperation as well as interoperability between the three nations.
Amid uncertainty over China’s activities in the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. and Japanese navies have stated that the manoeuvres are anticipated to promote ‘a free and open Indo-Pacific.’
Since 2017, the anti-submarine drills have not been held since the previous progressive South Korean administration wanted to strengthen inter-Korean ties and ease the denuclearization negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington, which have been inactive since 2019.