TOKYO – Japan and the United States began on Thursday joint naval drills south of the Korean peninsula in a show of power against North Korea.
The US sent its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, three destroyers and around 14,000 troops to participate in the drills that will be conducted until Oct. 26 in waters near the Okinawa archipelago, the US Navy said in a statement, stressing these are regular drills.
South Korea and the US had launched on Sunday other joint drills covering larger ground in the Sea of Japan (called East Sea in the two Koreas), also as a show of might to Pyongyang.
Following his meeting with the Commander of the US Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris on Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had stressed on the need to reinforce the capacity of deterrence and joint response by Tokyo and Washington owing to a worsening security situation in the region.
The meeting between Abe and Harris in Tokyo comes a week after US President Donald Trump’s visit to Japan, as part of his Asia tour, during which he had urged Abe to jointly apply maximum possible pressure on Pyongyang to force it to abandon its weapons programs.
From Japan, Trump had traveled to Seoul, where he had harshly condemned the North Korean regime in a speech at the South Korean National Assembly and underlined the strategic positioning of military assets in the region.
Pyongyang had called the speech “a declaration of war” and vehemently attacked Trump in an article published Wednesday in the country’s main daily Rodong Sinmun.
Trump’s harsh rhetoric, coupled with the North Korean regime’s ongoing weapons tests have escalated regional tension to unprecedented levels since the end of the Korean War (1950-1953).