Anti-missile systems are all the rage in northeast Asia these days, as North Korea’s renewed belligerence stirs fear in South Korea and Japan. Seoul and Tokyo typically do not collaborate on military operations, but they now plan to conduct joint anti-missile exercises with the United States. CNN reports:
The three countries will practice “detecting and tracing a hypothetical North Korean missile,” said a ministry official. But the drill will not involve firing an actual missile to practice interception. Instead, the drill will be focused on the exchange of information among the units involved.
Pentagon spokesman Maj. Jamie Davis said he could not comment on specifics, but the exercise would be held on the sidelines of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) event in June.
Headquartered in Hawaii, RIMPAC is described by the U.S. Navy as “the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise.”
The exercises were developed within the context of an information-sharing agreement signed by the three countries in December of 2014, Davis said.
Since North Korea conducted a nuclear test in early January, we have watched Japan and South Korea move closer to the United States and to each other. The big loser in all of this, of course, is China. Beijing has either been unwilling or unable to restrain Pyongyang, and that makes Seoul and Tokyo run to Washington. Prior to North Korea’s misbehavior, South Korean President Park Geun-hye had been practically kowtowing to President Xi Jinping in the hopes of improving relations with China. No longer.
South Korea has long concluded that North Korea can launch a nuclear warhead capable of hitting Seoul and much of Japan. Last week, the U.S. said it agreed with that assessment. The cooperation between Japan and South Korea, which retired American General Spider Marks called “unprecedented”, reflects how much the rules of Asian geopolitics have changed.