US, South Korea, Japan begin ballistic missile defense exercises after North Korea missile launches

In this photo provided by the South Korea Defense Ministry, the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, center, participates in a joint anti-submarine drill among South Korea, the United States and Japan in waters off South Korea’s eastern coast in South Korea on Sept. 30, 2022. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP, File)

The United States, South Korea and Japan have begun ballistic missile defense exercises in the Sea of Japan in response to a series of North Korean missile launches, the Pentagon’s top spokesperson said Thursday. 

The exercises — involving the USS Ronald Reagan strike group, two Japanese destroyers and one South Korean destroyer that arrived east of the Korean peninsula on Oct. 5 — are meant to “send a clear message of allied unity between our nations and enhance the interoperability of our collective forces,” press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters. 

The new trilateral exercise comes days after the U.S. military and South Korean forces held joint missile drills in response to North Korea launching an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan.  

North Korea fired two more ballistic missiles into the ocean earlier on Thursday and suggested that the launch was in response to the U.S. moving the Navy strike group near its waters. The missile launch was the country’s sixth in 12 days. 

Ryder said the United States strongly condemns the launch, which he called an “irresponsible act” that violates numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions. 

North Korea “is urged to immediately cease actions that … escalate military tensions, destabilize the region and endanger the peace and security of innocent people,” Ryder said.  

That test and the others around it have raised alarms over the isolated nation’s growing nuclear capabilities and fears it may soon conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.  

As part of its saber rattling, Pyongyang’s military also flew a dozen warplanes — including fighter jets and four bombers — near the border with the South on Thursday, prompting a response from Seoul, which sent up 30 of its own fighter jets. 

Ryder said that while it’s clear North Korea is testing its missile program and “looking to adapt,” he would not say if the U.S. is preparing a further response to North Korea provocations.

“We do assess that, that North Korea has been making preparations. If and when they do conduct a nuclear test, I’m not going to speculate,” he said. 

Tags Japan military exercises North Korea North Korea nuclear threat Pat Ryder Pat Ryder pentagon South Korea US-North Korea relations

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