US, Japan and S. Korea hold first-ever joint drills
The US, South Korea, and Japan have conducted their first-ever joint aerial drills, the South Korean military announced on Sunday.
The exercise took place off the Korean Peninsula and was aimed at honing the three nations’ capabilities to counter North Korea’s purported nuclear and missile threat, South Korea’s Air Force said in a statement. The drills involved at least one US B-52 Stratofortress nuclear-capable strategic bomber, as well as South Korean and Japanese fighter jets to escort it.
The trilateral drills come as North Korea condemned the deployment of an American nuclear-capable bomber in the South, which was stationed in the country earlier this week. The aircraft will become among its “first targets for destruction” should a full-blown conflict break out in the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang warned.
“The United States will not be unaware of the fact that the Korean Peninsula is legally in a state of war and that strategic assets contributing to the enemy's territory will be the first targets for destruction,” Pyongyang said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Friday. With its actions, Washington is effectively provoking a nuclear war, Pyongyang claimed.
The US, for its part, claimed that the deployment of the nuclear-capable aircraft was designed to show Washington’s “commitment to the stability and security of the Indo-Pacific region,” as well as to bolstering ties with its regional allies.
Back in August, US President Joe Biden met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Camp David. During the summit, Biden pledged to deepen military ties between the countries, while the three leaders took jabs at Pyongyang and condemned the “dangerous and aggressive behavior” allegedly exhibited by China in the region. The three countries also committed to conducting military joint training exercises annually and establishing a mechanism for real-time data sharing on North Korean missile launches by the end of the year.