Japan, US stage joint military maneuver amid tensions with North Korea

Japan, US stage joint military maneuver amid tensions with North Korea

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's navy and air force began a three-day military exercise with two USA aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan on Thursday adding pressure on North Korea to halt an accelerating ballistic missile program.

JapanAir Self-Defece Force's F-15 fighter jets fly over US Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during a joint training in the Sea of Japan.

The last dual carrier operation known to the public occurred previous year when USS Ronald Reagan and USS John C. Stennis groups sailed to the Philippine Sea, according to Stars and Stripes.

The Japanese military confirmed in a release that its destroyers had joined the USA vessels, according to Reuters.

"It's the first time we have exercised with two carriers". "It's a major exercise for us".

On its Facebook page, the US Seventh Fleet said: "The Ronald Reagan and Carl Vinson Strike Groups were joined by the Japan Maritime Self Defence Forces for routine training to improve interoperability and readiness in the Indo-Asia Pacific".

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The operations were the largest display of naval power thus far in response to the dozen ballistic missile tests conducted by North Korea, and included 12 warships and two carrier air wings, according to Stars and Stripes.

North Korea can already strike anywhere in Japan with missiles, raising concern in Tokyo that it could eventually be threatened by a North Korean nuclear strike.

It also comes shortly after defense industry sources in Tokyo said Japanese and United States companies were collaborating on new missile defense radars.

U.S. Pacific Command said the short-range ballistic missile North Korea launched on May 28 posed no threat to North America, adding that the U.S. military stands behind its "ironclad commitment to the security of our allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan".

US President Donald Trump has taken a very harsh stance toward North Korea since he took office four months ago.

As with all statements coming out of North Korea, Thursday's statement is likely to have been approved by the country's 33-year-old "supreme leader", Kim Jong Un, the grandson of North Korea's founding ruler Kim Il Sung who died in 1994 at age 82.

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