Home Nonmilitary action South Korea, the United States and Japan begin a Pacific Dragon ballistic missile defense exercise this week

South Korea, the United States and Japan begin a Pacific Dragon ballistic missile defense exercise this week

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US military, NASA and members of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory observe the trajectory of NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle after launch from the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai , Hawaii. (File Photo – US Indo-Pacific Command)

South Korea, the United States and Japan are set to jointly conduct a ballistic missile defense exercise to boost military interoperability and readiness against growing threats from North Korea.

The Pacific Dragon ballistic missile defense exercise conducted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet will be held for two weeks between Monday and Aug. 14 off the coast of Hawaii, the South Korean military confirmed on Sunday.

A total of five countries – South Korea, Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States – will take part in the multilateral exercise. The South Korean navy plans to send the 7,600-ton destroyer Sejong the Great Aegis equipped with SM-2 surface-to-air missiles.

The Pacific Dragon exercise aims to improve interoperability and tactical and technical coordination among participants in the detection, tracking, reporting and assessment of ballistic targets.

During the exercise, the five countries will practice detecting, tracking and sharing information on dummy ballistic projectiles fired by the US Navy, according to the South Korean military. The US Navy will also intercept dummy projectiles with guide missiles.

Although the Pacific Dragon was staged every two years in conjunction with the biennial US-led Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, exercise, the exercise was not open to the public in 2018. and 2020 so as not to provoke North Korea.

But the South Korean military’s confirmation came after South Korean, US and Japanese defense chiefs met in June and agreed to regularize and publicize trilateral missile defense drills to deter threats. ballistic missiles from North Korea.

Cautious approach on trilateral exercises
Expanding trilateral security cooperation and military exercises were high on the agenda of the recent meeting of defense ministers, a senior ministry official said on Sunday – who asked to remain anonymous – during a briefing behind closed doors.

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met in Washington on Friday and discussed ways to strengthen trilateral security cooperation to jointly respond to missile and nuclear threats of North Korea.

Lee also briefed Austin on Gov. Yoon Suk-yeol’s stance on trilateral military exercises during the meeting, the senior official said.

Essentially, Seoul sees the need to expand trilateral military exercises with Japan and the United States in light of growing threats from North Korea, but it will push the plan forward gradually with a cautious case-by-case approach.

Lee explained that the Yoon government was seeking to “gradually expand trilateral exercises” while focusing on strengthening existing trilateral exercises such as a simulation-based trilateral missile warning exercise, the South Korean ministry said on Sunday. Korean Defense in a separate statement.

The three countries have agreed to conduct a trilateral Missile Warning Exercise – which aims to track a virtual ballistic target and exchange information – every three months in 2016. But the Missile Warning Exercise has not been organized only once this year and only three times last year. .

“We have expressed our position that we pursue the expansion of trilateral exercises and training in a phased manner and with careful consideration in light of public sentiment and other factors,” the unnamed senior official said.

Widespread anti-Japanese public sentiment is a key consideration in conducting trilateral military exercises, though Seoul perceives the growing importance of trilateral security cooperation.

In a nutshell, Lee told Austin that Seoul should take a step-by-step case-by-case approach to deciding whether or not to participate in the trilateral exercises based on public opinion. But South Korea will actively participate in non-military training, including the suspended search and rescue exercise.

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup (second from L) and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (second from R) are seen holding bilateral talks at the US Department of Defense in Washington on July 29, 2022. (Department of National Defense)

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup (second from L) and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (second from R) are seen holding bilateral talks at the US Department of Defense in Washington on July 29, 2022. (Department of National Defense)

Strengthen alliance deterrence, preparedness
Austin and Lee also discussed how to strengthen the alliance’s deterrence and defense posture to deal with evolving threats from North Korea.

Defense chiefs discussed ways to improve the viability of U.S. extended deterrence as a key program, the senior official said.

Austin and Lee agreed to reactivate the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Advisory Group (EDSCG) and hold a meeting in September.

The latest EDSCG meeting between the South Korean and US deputy foreign and defense ministers, launched in December 2016 in the aftermath of North Korea’s fifth nuclear test, was held in January 2018.

The defense chiefs also pledged to enhance table-top exercises (TTX) on the employment of deterrents and the deployment of strategic US military assets in accordance with joint efforts to enhance alliance deterrence. Seoul and Washington only conducted TTXs in 2019 and 2021.

TTXs allow South Korea and the United States to practice joint military responses in simulated emergency scenarios, including North Korean nuclear threats and the use of nuclear weapons.

South Korea and the United States essentially seek to propose policy measures to the EDSCG while improving military readiness by conducting TTXs.

Resumption of exercises at the theater level
The two defense chiefs also agreed to conduct theater-level military exercises in August and September incorporating the South Korean government’s civilian contingency exercise Ulchi and the combined military exercise, the source said.

Theater-level military exercises were suspended following the first U.S.-North Korea summit in June 2018.

South Korea and the United States plan to conduct large-scale “Ulchi Freedom Shield” military exercises, including field training exercises between Aug. 22 and Sept. 1. The UFS is simulating an “all-out war” with North Korea, according to the senior official. .

Austin and Lee are committed to resuming and expanding Field Training Exercises or FTX at the regimental level and on a larger scale.

“The action aims to further strengthen the combined defense posture by enhancing political and strategic coordination as well as improving interoperability between tactical units,” the senior official told reporters. The official explained that the FTX will offer South Korean and American tactical units the opportunity to share their tactical doctrine.

Meanwhile, the Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korea newspaper produced by the Chongryon community in Tokyo, warned South Korea and the United States of the consequences of the upcoming combined military exercises in a Korean-language article published Saturday morning.

The article was written by Kim Ji-young, a senior writer for Choson Sinbo and a top spokesperson for Pyongyang, and published hours after Seoul and Washington announced the results of the defense ministers’ meeting. .

“The confrontation between the DPRK and the United States is becoming increasingly fierce. Actions could be taken corresponding to the intensity of the opponent’s provocations and the level of confrontation as we are in the force for force phase,” the Choson Sinbo said. “It is impossible to predict how the DPRK will crush US military provocations to prevent war.”

The Choson Sinbo warned that North Korea has a “wider range of options to respond to provocations” compared to the run-up to the 2018 Singapore summit, noting that North Korea has strengthened its “deterrence of war”.

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