U.S., South Korea, Japan Hold Joint Ballistic Missile Defense Drills After Failed North Korea Launch

August 29, 2023 6:26 PM
USS Benfold (DDG-65), JS Haguro (DDG-180) and ROKS Yulgok Yi I (DDG-992) underway on Aug. 28, 2023. JMSDF Photo

The U.S., Japan and South Korea conducted a trilateral ballistic missile defense exercise in the East China Sea on Tuesday in response to North Korea’s failed satellite launch last week.

On Thursday, Pyongyang launched a rocket based on its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technologies. Two days later, U.S., Australian, Japanese and Philippines military officials flew over the South China Sea in a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) as part of the activities around a meeting of the four nations in Manila.

Aegis-equipped guided-missile destroyers USS Benfold (DDG-65), JS Haguro (DDG-180) and ROKS Yulgok Yi I (DDG-992) carried out the ballistic missile defense exercise in the East China Sea.

“The exercise was conducted to practice connecting networks among each Aegis ships and sharing information on ballistic missiles. Through the exercise, we improved our tactical capabilities and joint response capabilities for ballistic missile defense,” said Capt. Tomohiro Tomimatsu, Haguro’s commanding officer, in a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force news release on the exercise.

North Korean ICBM. KCNA Photo

“The exercise strongly promotes trilateral cooperation to respond to regional security challenges such as the failed DPRK launch that used ballistic missile technology, a brazen violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions that raise tensions and risks destabilizing regional security,” reads a statement from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Since May 29, Japan has issued orders for its military to destroy any missile should they appear to be on a trajectory to hit Japan’s territory. On Tuesday, Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, in his regular press conference, said his government is still analyzing all the information on potential North Korean launches and whether the destruction order will lift or remain in place.

“We are handling the destruction order very carefully, so we will make a decision after confirming all the information,” Hamada said.

Meanwhile, military leaders from the U.S., Australia, Japan and the Philippines met in Manila over the weekend to discuss growing the cooperation between the four countries, the U.S. Navy said in a news release. U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas met with Australian Defense Force Chief of Joint Operations Lt. Gen. Greg Bilton, JMSDF Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Akira Saito, Philippine Navy Chief Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci and Fleet Commander Rear Adm. Renato David, Philippine Naval Air Wing commander Commodore Juario Marayag; and Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Wing West commander Brig. Gen. Erick Quijada Escarcha.

Vice Adm. Karl Thomas speaks with Naval Air Wing Commander of the Philippine Navy Commodore Juario Marayag before boarding a P-8A Poseidon for a demonstration flight in Manila, Philippines, Aug. 26. US Navy Photo

Meanwhile, amphibious assault ship HMAS Canberra (L02), helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183) and amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) also visited Manila during that same periods, according to the statement.

The leaders embarked on a U.S Navy P-8 Poseidon MPA for a flight over the South China Sea.

“During the flight, they were able to observe the maritime environment and discuss ways to increase interoperability, preserve regional stability, and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific” reads the statement .

A JMSDF release said the flight took place on Saturday with Thomas, Bilton, Saito, Marayag and Escarcha on board.

Australia and the Philippines have agreed to conduct joint patrols in the South China Sea and the four countries carried out a joint drill on Thursday off Manila. China claims sovereignty over the entire archipelago and has extensively developed its holdings there into artificial islands hosting military bases and aircraft runways.

At the same time, around Japan Russian Navy and PLAN warships made separate transits of the Tsushima Strait on Friday and Saturday, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. At 2 p.m. local time on Friday, destroyers RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548) and RFS Admiral Tributs (564) and corvette RFS Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339) were sighted sailing eastward in an area about 70 miles northwest of Fukue Island and subsequently sailed northeast through the Tsushima Strait to enter the Sea of Japan, the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense said in a Monday news release. Fast attack craft JS Otaka (PG-826) and a JMSDF P-1 MPA of Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi on the main island of Honshu shadowed the Russian ships. The Russian ships left Qingdao on Friday after conducting a port visit following the completion of the joint Russian Navy-PLAN joint patrol and arrived on Sunday at their homeport of Vladivostok.

The JSO issued a second release on Monday stating that on Friday at 2 p.m., PLAN cruiser CNS Wuxi (104) and fleet oiler CNS Kekexilihu (905) were sighted sailing eastward in an area 118 miles west of Fukue Island. From Friday to Saturday the two ships transited northeast through the Tsushima Strait to enter the Sea of Japan. On Saturday at midnight, PLAN frigate CNS Weifang (550) was sighted sailing eastwards in an area 62 miles west of the Goto Islands and subsequently transited northeast through the Tsushima Strait to enter the Sea of Japan. Otaka, JMSDF P-1 MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at JMSDF Kanoya Air Base on the main island of Kyushu and Fleet Air Wing 4 monitored the PLAN ships.

CNS Wuxi (104) and fleet oiler CNS Kekexilihu (905)

The JSO said on Monday morning that a Chinese BZK-005 unmanned air vehicle flew in from the East China Sea and passed between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan, reached the Philippine Sea near the Sakishima Islands, where it circled around south of the islands, and then headed for the Bashi Channel between the Philippines and Taiwan. Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighters from Japan Southwest Air Defense command scrambled in response.

Meanwhile, the second phase of the Resolute Dragon 23 exercise between the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps will take place from Oct. 14 through Oct. 31, the JGSDF said in a Tuesday news release. The earlier first phase was a command post exercise held in July. The exercise will take place primarily around the main island of Kyushu and Japan’s southwest islands. The JGSDF’s Western Army and III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) will participate for drills meant to practice island defense operations utilizing the JGSDF’s Cross Domain Operations (CDO) and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) concepts. Units from the JMSDF and JASDF will also participate in some phases of the exercise, according to the release.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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