- US, Japanese and South Korean warships conduct submarine hunting exercises near North Korea
Japanese officials said the exercises were aimed at improving the JMSDF’s tactical capabilities, as well as strengthening the interoperability between the three navies.
The event comes amid high regional tensions after North Korea test-fired two ballistic missiles on September 28.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) said the possibility of North Korea conducting a nuclear test is increasing and that the move could take place in the second half of October or early November.
North Korea’s 38 North, which monitors north Korea, released an image analysis report last week, saying Pyongyang may be about to launch another submarine capable of carrying ballistic missiles.
South Korean military sources said on Sept. 24 that the country had detected some suspicious moves like the preparations for a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLMB) test in North Korea’s South Hamgyong province.
SLBMs are less accurate and powerful than intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but ballistic missile submarines can hide under the sea for extended periods of time to deliver a counterattack in the event of a preemptive strike. Conventional SLBMs can also be deployed to destroy high-value tactical targets.
North Korea operates 70 submarines of various types, including a Gorae-class ballistic missile submarine and 20 Project 633 attack submarines.
Most North Korean submarines are obsolete, can only operate close to shore and are unlikely to threaten an adversary in the event of a conflict.
However, this force will be significantly strengthened if equipped with SLBMs with a range of hundreds of kilometers and modern warheads.
Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force announced it would conduct submarine-hunting exercises with the U.S. and South Korean navies in waters near North Korea.
“Maritime Self-Defense Forces Japan (JMSDF) will conduct trilateral exercises with the navy America and South Korea in the Sea of Japan on September 30 to enhance cooperation and realize the free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Japanese Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The waters where the drills took place lie between North Korea, South Korea and Japan.
The JMSDF sent the destroyer JS Asahi to participate in the exercise, while the U.S. deployed the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, the destroyers USS Barry and USS Benford, while the South Korean navy deployed the destroyer Munmu the Great.
The warships of the three countries will carry out a variety of exercises, including hunting for hypothetical submarines and sea formations.