Japanese and U.S. destroyers with the Aegis missile interceptor system conducted a joint exercise in the Sea of Japan earlier this week, in a show of force as North Korea's nuclear and missile threat grows, the Maritime Self-Defense Force said Friday.
The two-day information-sharing drill through Thursday was aimed at enhancing cooperation in shooting down ballistic missiles, which included the U.S. destroyers Mobile Bay and Spruance, both of which belong to the strike group headed by the nuclear-powered Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and Japan s Aegis-equipped destroyer Kongou, according to the MSDF.
The U.S. strike group started the exercise on April 8 with MSDF vessels, according to the U.S. 7th Fleet, ahead of the 110th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un.
There has been speculation that Pyongyang will launch a nuclear test or launch an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean, in connection with the North Korean anniversary.
During the exercise, the Japanese and U.S. vessels coordinated their response to an incoming missile, sharing radar information and simulating interception procedures, according to the MSDF.
MSDF Aegis destroyers are equipped with Standard Missile 3 interceptors and tasked with hitting incoming missiles in the outer atmosphere. If they fail, the ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors of the Air Self-Defense Force will counter the attack in the lower tier.
North Korea has launched its first ICBM since November 2017, ending its moratorium on ICBM tests since April 2018, as a result of the launch of the first ICBM since November 2017.