WASHINGTON (Jiji Press)–The United States, South Korea and Japan will conduct a first-of-its-kind joint naval exercise on June 21-22 in waters south of the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. Defense Department said.
This is the first time Maritime Self-Defense Force troops will participate in a drill with U.S. and South Korean naval forces, though MSDF personnel have participated in joint U.S.-South Korea maneuvers as observers.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, based at the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, will take part in the joint exercise.
“The exercise will focus on improving interoperability and communications” with the South Korean Navy and the MSDF to “facilitate cooperative disaster relief and maritime security activities in the future,” the Pentagon said Wednesday, adding the three countries “will conduct this exercise beyond the territorial waters of any coastal nation.”
But the joint operation is also intended to pressure North Korea to refrain from escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, sources said.
The MSDF sent several field officers to a U.S.-South Korea drill conducted in July 2010 in response to North Korea’s alleged torpedo attack that sunk a South Korean warship, while South Korea played an observer role in a Japan-U.S. exercise in December the same year. The three countries have also held a joint search-and-rescue drill.
But Seoul has been reluctant to invite Japanese troops to military exercises with the United States.
To make it easier for South Korea to give the nod to the MDSF’s participation, the Pentagon highlighted disaster relief cooperation as the key purpose of the forthcoming trilateral exercise, which comes after Tokyo and Washington set common strategic goals in June last year calling in part for reinforcing security and defense cooperation among the three countries, informed sources said.
(Jun. 15, 2012)