The United States and South Korea have launched a three-day joint naval drill amid heightening tensions in the Korean Peninsula. The military exercise kicked off on Monday in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) off the South Korean port city of Pohang with the participation of US nuclear submarine USS San Francisco armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, joined by the 9,800-ton Aegis destroyer, the USS Shiloh. “The exercise includes at-sea operating training, detecting and tracking a submarine, anti-air and anti-ship live fire training and anti-missile training,” Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted one military official as saying.
The joint drill comes a few days after North Korea threatened to carry out a nuclear test despite a new round of UN sanctions against its December rocket launch. Pyongyang said the test was the “demand of people.”On January 25, North Korea also warned of “strong physical countermeasures” against South Korea if Seoul “directly participates in the so-called UN sanctions.” Pyongyang said it would launch more long-range rockets and carry out the nuclear test aimed at its “arch-enemy the United States.” The South Korean Defense Ministry recently stated that North Korea had completed all technical preparations for another nuclear test. Commentators say the presence of the US submarine in the joint military exercise could be regarded as a warning to North Korea. AO/HSN/HJL