Japan, US stage joint military maneuver amid tensions with North Korea
Iran Press TV
Fri Jun 2, 2017 6:13AM
Japan's naval and air forces have launched a three-day joint military drill with US aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan amid tensions with North Korea over its missile and nuclear programs.
On Thursday, Japanese destroyers Hyuga and Ashigara joined the US aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan, in the sea, which separates Japan from the Korean Peninsula, Japan's military said.
At the same time, Japan's Air Self Defense Force F-15s are taking part in simulated combat with US Navy F-18 fighters, the military added.
"It's the first time we have exercised with two carriers," said a Japanese military spokesman. "It's a major exercise for us."
However, the US Seventh Fleet said on its Facebook page that the drill is "routine training to improve interoperability and readiness in the Indo-Asia Pacific."
The US has sent its strike group to the region in what is intended to be a show of force amid North Korea's advancing missile and military nuclear programs.
The US military has also deployed the controversial THAAD missile system to a site in South Korea to counter what it calls threats from the North.
North Korea which considers the deployments as an act of provocation, has threatened the US with a nuclear attack in case of a direct military action.
US President Donald Trump has taken a very harsh stance toward North Korea since he took office four months ago. His administration has declared an end to Washington's "strategic patience" with the North.
Japan has also been pushing to increase pressure on Pyongyang through working with other countries.
Pyongyang, however, insists that its missile and nuclear activities act as deterrence against a potential invasion by its adversaries.
Moon's aide in Washington
In another development, South Korean President Moon Jae-in's top security aide left the country for Washington on Thursday.
The president's national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who would meet Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said that his trip has nothing to do with the recent controversy that erupted over the deployment of THAAD missile system into his country.
"We've sufficiently explained that this has nothing to do with our alliance," Chung said.
South Korea's new president has ordered an investigation after he found out that Defense Ministry failed to inform him that four more missile launchers for the THAAD system had been brought into the country.
The probe later found that South Korea's military authorities had deliberately withheld the information from Moon.
Moon said it was "very shocking" that his office had not been told of the latest deployment while he is preparing for a summit with Trump in Washington this month.
The president, who previously said he was concerned by the deployment, has reassured that the probe was not meant to "change the existing decision or sending a message to the United States."
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