S. Korean, US and Japanese navies hold combined military exercises

Posted on : 2013-05-16 16:58 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Humanitarian exercises come at a time of backward comments on Japan’s imperial past by Japanese politicians

By Kim Kyu-won, staff reporter

On May 15, South Korea participated in a combined naval exercise with the US and Japan in international waters between Jeju and Kyushu islands.

The exercises were intended for humanitarian purposes, but controversy has arisen over the possibly inappropriate timing, as the exercises came amid a rash of controversial statements by prominent Japanese politicians.

According to the South Korean Ministry of National Defense, the humanitarian search and rescue exercise (SAREX) took place between 7am and 5pm on May 15, with the South Korean, American, and Japanese navies participating.

“These exercises have been held every year since 2011,” the ministry noted.

Six vessels participated: South Korea’s 7,600-ton Aegis destroyer King Jeyong and 4,200-ton Yi Sunshin-class destroyer Chungmugong, two US Aegis destroyers from the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier battle group, and Japan’s 7,700-ton Aegis-equipped Ashigara destroyer and 4,200-ton Akizuki escort hip.

The USS Nimitz itself did not participate in the exercise.

The scenario for the exercise was reportedly a private vessel shipwreck in international waters, with ships from the three countries running through their respective duties in a search and rescue. All three took part in an identical exercise at the same location last year.

The Ministry of National Defense initially tried to keep the exercise secret, requesting a media blackout until it was over. According to sources, the US 7th Fleet and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force had plans to issue press releases on the exercise last week, but canceled them at Seoul’s request.

But the media embargo was broken on May 15 when Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported on the exercise.

The ministry’s rationale for the embargo was that media coverage might unnecessarily provoke China. But the main focus of the controversy was the fact that the exercise involved the South Korean military participating alongside the Japanese and US militaries. In particular, it came at a time when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto had made statements in defense of Japan’s imperial-era actions.

“This is a humanitarian exercise,” said ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok. “If it is halted because of political issues, we may not receive the search and rescue assistance from Japan we need to recover people and vessels when there is an accident.”


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