TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - “We decisively condemn North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests. At the same time, we oppose excessive military activity of several countries of the region that provoke such tests,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers’ Meeting on Tuesday, adding that such moves would provoke Pyongyang.
Shoigu’s remarks came a few hours after Washington and its two allies in the Far East region, Tokyo and Seoul, kick-started a two-day Missile Warning Exercise, off South Korean and Japanese coasts aimed at tackling North Korea's nuclear and missile alleged “threats.”
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Republic of Korea, the drills are being conducted to practice the cross-navy capabilities in detecting and tracking any potential North Korean ballistic missiles.
The provocative exercise is reportedly being led by the American Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Stethem, Japanese Kongo-class guided missile destroyer JDS Kirishima and South Korean Sejong Great-class destroyer, which are all equipped with Aegis Combat System.
On Monday, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo, in a trilateral meeting in the Philippines, vowed to increase joint air exercises over the Korean Peninsula.
“The three ministers lauded collective efforts to expand information sharing on North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and enhance response capabilities, including the execution of multiple combined flight training missions with US bomber aircraft,” the military chiefs said in a joint statement at the time.
The war games, which will not include intercepting and destroying projectiles, began at a time of increased tensions around the North’s nuclear and missile test launches.
Washington’s military maneuvers with its close allies also come ahead of US President Donald Trump's visit to Japan and South Korea scheduled to start on November 5.
Trump has taken a tough stance against Pyongyang, threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary and calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-un names. Kim has responded with threats, vowing to take the “highest-level” measures against the US.
The North has already denounced such war games around the peninsula, condemning the drills as a “rehearsal for war” against Pyongyang.
The US and North Korea have been at loggerheads over Pyongyang’s weapons and nuclear programs. However, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have recently risen sharply following a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang, including its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3 and two missiles launched over Japan. Back in July, the North also claimed that it had fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles, Presstv reported.
North Korea is under mounting international pressure over its missile and military nuclear programs and has been subjected to an array of sanctions by the United Nations. However, Pyongyang says it needs to continue and develop the programs as a deterrent against hostility by the US and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.