In response to growing nuclear threats from North Korea, the air forces of the United States, Japan, and South Korea held their first collaborative aerial exercises on Sunday, the South Korean Air Force reported.
The three countries agreed to improve their defense cooperation and strengthen their joint reaction capabilities against North Korean threats, and the training near the Korean Peninsula was meant to put that agreement into action, according to a statement released by the Air Force.
The drill included a U.S. B-52 bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons and fighter fighters from South Korea and Japan.
About 80,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea and Japan, two of the United States’ most important allies in Asia.
While anti-submarine and missile defense exercises have been part of trilateral maritime drills, Sunday’s training marked the first time the three countries had conducted a trilateral aerial simulation.
As a result of Japan’s cruel colonial reign over the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, extending military drills with Japan is a contentious issue in South Korea.
Yoon Suk Yeol, the conservative president of South Korea, has been pressed to put aside old grudges with Japan to strengthen trilateral security cooperation with the United States and Japan in light of the North’s expanding nuclear program.
To counter North Korea’s nuclear threats, Yoon, President Joe Biden of the United States, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan convened in August for their first independent trilateral summit at Camp David.
The presidents agreed to perform trilateral drills annually and to share real-time missile warning data on North Korea by the end of the year.
North Korea has traditionally been maddened by U.S. training exercises with their southern neighbor, calling them a rehearsal for invasion and reacting with missile testing; this Sunday’s drill could provoke a furious response from the hermit kingdom.
The North Korean government has accused the United States, South Korea, and Japan of scheming to provoke a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, prompting the North to trash the Camp David Accord. According to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Yoon, Biden, and Kishida are “gang chiefs.”
Since North Korea openly threatened to use nuclear weapons in prospective confrontations with the U.S. and South Korea last year and passed a law authorizing the preemptive use of atomic weapons, concerns about its nuclear program have grown.