The navies of South Korea and the US carried out maritime drills with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces in waters south of Jeju Island between Jan. 15 and Jan. 17. Counterclockwise from the upper right are the ROKS Wang Geon, JS Kongo, USS Carl Vinson, ROKS Sejong the Great, USS Princeton and USS Kidd. (courtesy of the US Navy)
South Korea, the US and Japan conducted a three-day trilateral naval exercise in international waters south of Jeju Island from Monday to Wednesday, with the USS Carl Vinson supercarrier taking part, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff announced Wednesday.
The Joint Chiefs called the exercise “significant in both boosting capabilities to respond to North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles and showing joint response capabilities and commitment with regard to North Korean threats.”
The nine warships participating in the exercise were two Sejong the Great-class destroyers affiliated with the Republic of Korea Navy, the USS Carl Vinson and four other ships affiliated with the US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 1, and two Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, including a Kongo-class destroyer.
The trilateral maritime exercise was the second in two months following a previous one in November, which also included the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
On the first day, the chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kim Myung-soo, visited the USS Carl Vinson to review the exercises.
“Maritime exercises by South Korea, the US and Japan have centrally contributed to deterring and responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, which have been advancing by the day,” he said at the time.
According to the chiefs, the exercise focused on strengthening trilateral cooperation to establish a rule-based international order and respond to maritime security threats, including blocking the maritime transportation of weapons of mass destruction.
Kim Myung-soo, the chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff, watches takeoff and landing drills from the USS Carl Vinson on Jan. 15. (courtesy of the Joint Chiefs)
The trilateral exercise was the first conducted since South Korean, US and Japanese military authorities jointly formulated a multi-year exercise plan to carry out the terms of their agreement reached at Camp David last August, where they agreed to hold regular trilateral military exercises.
During the Moon Jae-in administration, South Korea did not take part in trilateral exercises due to concerns about excessive Japanese interference in Korean Peninsula issues.
But since current President Yoon Suk-yeol’s administration was launched in May 2022, the three sides have engaged in sea and air exercises, including missile warning and anti-submarine drills.
The situation has raised concerns among some that the three appear to be racing into a quasi-military alliance.
By Kwon Hyuk-chul, staff reporter
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