The first joint air drills by South Korea, the US and Japan took place in the South Korean and Japanese ADIZs south of the Korean Peninsula on Oct. 22. (courtesy of the US Air Force)
South Korea, the US and Japan conducted their first-ever trilateral air drills in the overlapping South Korea-Japan air defense identification zones (ADIZ) in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula on Sunday afternoon.
The drill came after the leaders of the three countries agreed to revitalize annual trilateral exercises in August at their summit at Camp David in the US, citing the threat posed by North Korea. There are concerns that these types of drills will serve as an opportunity for Japan to intervene and interfere in Korean affairs.
The air drills were occasioned by the deployment of a nuclear-armed B-52 to the Korean Peninsula. South Korean, US and Japanese fighter jets practiced flying in formation to escort the B-52, a US military strategic bomber returning to the US from an air base in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province.
The B-52 landed at the air base after participating in a joint air exercise with the South Korean Air Force during the opening ceremony of Seoul ADEX 2023 at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, on Tuesday.
This is the first time that the three countries have conducted air exercises in the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula. The three countries have been conducting bilateral air exercises amongst themselves, with South Korea-US exercises and US-Japan exercises having taken place.
Since the inauguration of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration in May 2022, South Korea, the US and Japan have held a series of naval exercises, including anti-submarine warfare drills.
The civil society group Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea criticized the drills, staging a one-man protest near the presidential office in Seoul.
“The trilateral air drills are a prelude to the Japan Self-Defense Forces’ participation in drills on the Korean Peninsula, allowing Japan to intervene and interfere in Korean affairs and risking their forces’ reoccupation of the Korean Peninsula,” the group said.
“Following the de facto declaration of trilateral collective defense by the leaders of South Korea, the US and Japan at Camp David, the expansion and institutionalization of trilateral air drills and trilateral exercises will further hasten the establishment of a trilateral alliance,” they added.
By Kwon Hyuk-chul, staff reporter
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