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S. Korea, U.S., Japan set for 1st joint missile defense exercise in Hawaii

South Korea, the United States and Japan are to hold their first trilateral missile defense exercise this week against North Korea's ever growing ballistic missile threats.

The antimissile drill set for Tuesday in waters around Hawaii will revolve around a hypothetical missile launch by North Korea, according to the Ministry of National Defense here.

The three countries will each dispatch one Aegis Combat System-equipped warship to the trilateral antimissile drill, the first of its kind to be held among the three close-knit nations. A 7,600-ton guided-missile destroyer, Sejong the Great, will join the exercise from the South Korean side.

The exercise will mainly involve sharing information needed to detect and track the enemy's missile launch, including the trajectory of a launched missile.

The countries will use a U.S. ground command center to share the intelligence gathered by the Aegis destroyers, according to the ministry. But the latest exercise will not involve the actual firing of an interceptor missile.
"There will be no such drill," a ministry official said after being asked whether the trilateral antimissile exercise would cover the final interception phase.

The three-way exercise will also reportedly involve the U.S.' latest high-altitude surveillance drone, the MQ-9, which is capable of antimissile detection and tracking. 

Predator MQ-9 drone (Yonhap)
Predator MQ-9 drone (Yonhap)
During the exercise, however, South Korea and Japan will not directly exchange information but use the U.S. as a middleman, according to the ministry. The first joint antimissile exercise reflects the countries' accelerating efforts to counter North Korea's advancing missile capabilities.

Only last week, North Korea fired off its Musudan mid-range ballistic missile. Of the two missiles fired, North Korea claimed one was successful. Before Wednesday's launch, Pyongyang unsuccessfully fired off four Musudan missiles in April and May.

South Korean officials said the launch demonstrated that the missile could fly some 3,500 kilometers, which could hit any targets in Japan and as far as the U.S. territory of Guam. (Yonhap)


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