South Korea staged a naval exercise involving US surveillance aircraft today, flexing its military muscles at a time of high tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the North’s third nuclear test.
Day one of a six-day drill in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) involved South Korean warships and submarines, as well as surveillance planes from the United States, the defense ministry in Seoul said.
The exercises will practice operations to detect and track North Korean missiles and submarines, the ministry added.
“The drill is aimed at testing our readiness against threats from the enemy,” a spokesman told AFP.
It is the latest in a series of military exercises, which have been staged alone by South Korea or jointly with the United States since the North launched a long-range rocket on December 12.
Earlier this month, Seoul and Washington conducted a joint naval exercise with a US nuclear submarine off South Korea’s east coast, followed by a joint airforce drill.
Pyongyang insists the December launch put a satellite into orbit for peaceful research, but critics said it amounted to a banned ballistic missile test that marked a major advance for the communist state’s nuclear weapons programme.
Following the North’s nuclear test on February 12, the South vowed to accelerate the development of longer-range ballistic missiles and new cruise missiles capable of a precision strike on members of Pyongyang’s high command.