The United States and Japan say they have jointly staged fighter jet flight over the Sea of Japan in a show of strength after the latest missile launches by North Korea.
The joint exercise was meant to “showcase combined capabilities to deter and counter regional threats,” the US military said in a news release on Thursday.
As part of the drill, four F-15 fighter jets from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Chitose Air Base and four F-16s from US Misawa Air Base, both in northern Japan, flew together on Wednesday afternoon.
The military exercise was conducted after North Korea launched at least three ballistic missiles toward the sea on Wednesday morning local time.
All three missiles were fired toward the Sea of Japan off North Korea’s eastern coast one after another, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
South Korean officials further said that one of the missiles appeared to be Pyongyang's largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), with an estimated range of around 15,000 kilometers, enough to reach the US.
The latest test marks the 16th time that North Korea has fired its missiles this year, including what the US says was a failed intercontinental ballistic missile test on May 4 that exploded shortly after launch.
The North launched its missiles hours after American President Joe Biden left the Japanese capital Tokyo following a meeting with leaders from Japan, India and Australia.
Separately, the US military and South Korean forces also conducted joint live-fire tests, including surface-to-surface missile tests.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, held three rare meetings with Kim during his tenure from 2016 to 2020 to accomplish North Korea's complete denuclearization. The attempt failed despite Pyongyang's positive efforts.
Since then, Pyongyang, which has been under crippling international sanctions, conducted several weapons tests, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range.
UN to vote on US push for further sanctions against North
Later on Thursday, the UN Security Council will vote on a US push to impose more punitive measures against Pyongyang over its renewed ballistic missile launches.
The draft resolution would “further restrict North Korea's ability to advance its unlawful WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and ballistic missile programs, it would streamline sanctions implementation and further facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need,” Reuters quoted an unnamed US official as saying.
The UNSC has placed North Korea under tough sanctions since 2006 over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
Veto-wielding China and Russia are opposed to further sanctions on the North and emphasize that dialog is the only possible way to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
They argue sanctions will not solve any problems and further deteriorate the humanitarian situation in the peninsular country.
A resolution needs nine “yes” votes and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the US.
“We don't think a resolution as proposed by the US can solve any problems,” Reuters quoted an unnamed spokesperson for China’s UN mission, adding that Beijing had instead proposed that the council adopt a formal statement instead of a sanctions resolution.
The spokesperson further noted that Washington knows “the best way for de-escalation, but simply resists it.”
Beijing has already said that the White House should show “more sincerity and flexibility” if it wants a breakthrough with the North.