US Leads Missile Defense Drill to Tackle Pyongyang's 'Evolving Military Threats' - Report
Since last autumn, Pyongyang has conducted a series of missile tests, as part of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's five-year plan to expand the country's nuclear arsenal.
South Korea, Japan, and the US are due to begin a joint ballistic missile defense drill in the waters off Hawaii later on Monday as they step up security coordination against North Korea's "evolving military threats," according to Yonhap.
The South Korean news agency cited unnamed sources as saying that the Pacific Dragon exercise would take place on August 1-14 and aims to enhance cooperation among the participating countries in detecting, tracking and reporting ballistic missile targets.
The insiders added that in addition to the three countries, Australia and Canada would join the drill, which is being led by the US Pacific Fleet.
The claims come a few days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asserted that Pyongyang is absolutely ready to mobilize its "nuclear war deterrence forces" at any moment.
"Our armed forces are thoroughly prepared to respond to any crisis, and our nation's nuclear war deterrence is also fully ready to mobilize its absolute strength faithfully, accurately and promptly to its mission," Kim was cited by Al Jazeera as saying last Wednesday during the celebration of the anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.
The North Korean leader also argued that Washington continues "dangerous, illegal hostile acts" with South Korea against his country some 70 years after the war, and seeks to justify its behavior by "demonizing" the North.
He claimed any possible attempt by South Korea to make a preventive strike on the North to neutralize a part of the latter's military potential would be futile.
Additionally, Kim condemned the new South Korean administration under President Yoon Suk-yeol, saying any attempts to preemptively incapacitate his country would be met with a stern response and "annihilation".
"I once again make it clear that North Korea is fully ready for any military confrontation with the United States," he stressed.
This followed officials in Seoul and Washington claiming that Pyongyang had completed preparations to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.
South Korea's Foreign Minister Park Jin, in turn, warned that the North is likely to face stronger sanctions, including measures aimed at curbing its cyberattack capabilities if it goes ahead with the tests.
Last month, US special representative to North Korea Sung Kim asserted that Pyongyang had already tested an unprecedented number of missiles this year. In January, Pyongyang said it had tested a hypersonic missile and later launched a banned intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as well as missiles that it said could carry tactical nuclear weapons.
In 1953, Seoul and Pyongyang clinched an Armistice Agreement that ended the three-year war. However, formally, the Korean Peninsula is still at war because the conflict ended without both sides signing a peace treaty.
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