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INTERNATIONAL > S Korea, Japan and US begin joint drill

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A rocket is fired into the air from a US Multiple Launch Rocket System vehicle in a live fire drill during joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea in S Korea. AP photo

A rocket is fired into the air from a US Multiple Launch Rocket System vehicle in a live fire drill during joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea in S Korea. AP photo

South Korea, Japan and the United States yesterday began a joint naval exercise involving destroyers, supply ships and helicopters in a move denounced by North Korea as a “reckless provocation.”

Seoul’s defense ministry said the two-day drill would practice humanitarian operations such as search and rescue missions, and maritime interceptions. It said no live-fire exercises were planned.

The exercise comes at a time of rising tensions with the North following its failed rocket launch in April, seen by the U.S. and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test. Pyongyang said yesterday the three-nation exercise threatens to bring a “new cloud of war” to Northeast Asia.

US aircraft carrier to join exercises

“The North’s people and military are intensely watching the trilateral military drill,” said ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, urging the three allies to stop “reckless provocation.” A South Korean defense ministry spokesman declined to say how many personnel were involved in the exercise in international waters south of South Korea’s Jeju island, but said such drills had been held since 2008.

The U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington will join the exercise today before taking part in a separate drill with South Korea in the Yellow Sea from tomorrow to June 25, according to Agence France-Presse.

On land, South Korean and U.S. forces are to hold their biggest joint live-fire exercise today. Seoul’s defense ministry said 2,000 troops, F-15K and KF-16 jet fighters and light-attack planes would be among weaponry deployed.

Four U.S. Apache attack helicopters as well as tanks and rocket launchers will fire thousands of rounds during the drill at Pocheon near the border with the North. The North has taken a hostile tone with the South since new leader Kim Jong-un took over in December, threatening “sacred war” to avenge perceived insults to Pyongyang’s regime.

June/22/2012

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