Japan, US stage drill amid N Korea tension
TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
The 10-day exercise, joined by some 14,000 U.S. servicemen, aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided-missile destroyers USS Stethem, USS Chafee and USS Mustin, among others, “will take place in waters surrounding Okinawa” in southern Japan, the U.S. navy said in a statement.
North Korea, which has stoked regional tensions with nuclear and missile tests in recent months, has repeatedly denounced such military drills as rehearsals for invasion and sometimes conducts its own military maneuvers in response.
It comes after three U.S. aircraft carriers, including the USS Ronald Reagan, held rare joint drills in the western Pacific, joined separately by Japanese navy and South Korean warships over the weekend.
Those drills were slammed by North Korea’s Ambassador Ja Song Nam, who said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this week that the current situation was “the worst ever” around the Korean peninsula.
The first such deployment of three U.S. carriers since 2007 “is making it impossible to predict when nuclear war breaks out due to the U.S. nuclear war equipment” taking up a “strike posture,” wrote the ambassador.
As the drill kicked off, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met the commander of the US Pacific fleet, Harry Harris, and urged “close coordination” between Tokyo and Washington to “enhance deterrence” amid the North Korea threat.