Japan, US conduct naval drill

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Joint drill meant to be show of force aimed at N. Korea

TOKYO: Japan and the US launched a joint naval drill yesterday in a show of force aimed at North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions dominated US President Donald Trump's recent Asia trip.

The 10-day exercise, joined by some 14,000 US servicemen, aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided-missile destroyers USS Stethem, USS Chafee and USS Mustin, among others, "will take place in waters surrounding Okinawa" in southern Japan, the US navy said in a statement.

North Korea, which has stoked regional tensions with nuclear and missile tests in recent months, has repeatedly denounced such military drills as rehearsals for invasion and sometimes conducts its own military manoeuvres in response, AFP reported.

The annual drill "is designed to increase the defensive readiness and interoperability of Japanese and American forces through training in air and sea operations", the US navy said.

"The exercise follows more than a week of scenario-based training ashore," it said.

It comes after three US aircraft carriers held rare joint drills in the western Pacific, joined separately by Japanese navy and South Korean warships over the weekend.

North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test this year and test-fired a series of advanced missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Meanwhile, the head of the US military's Pacific Command said yesterday that diplomacy backed by military power is needed to deal with the North's missile and nuclear development, Reuters reported.

"Clearly, while diplomacy must be the main effort with North Korea, it has to be diplomacy backed by credible military power," the commander, Admiral Harry Harris, said in Japan at the start of a meeting with Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Mr Onodera told Admiral Harris he believed a recent joint military exercise involving Japanese forces and three US aircraft carriers sent a "very strong message" to North Korea.

Adm Harris separately told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the joint exercise in the Sea of Japan during Mr Trump's visit to the region was "an example of how our militaries work together".

Two Indian warships also took part.

Mr Abe told Adm Harris that Japan wanted to coordinate with the US to boost deterrence and response capability as the security environment in the region becomes more challenging.

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