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First trilateral naval drills prepare for an SLBM strike

Apr 04,2017
Seoul, Washington and Tokyo kicked off their first combined naval exercise against a possible submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) threat from North Korea, the Ministry of National Defense announced Monday.

The three-day exercise, which runs through Wednesday, is being held in waters between South Korea and Japan amid growing provocations from the North. Participating from the South Korean side are the Kang Gam Chan destroyer and an anti-submarine Lynx helicopter. The United States agreed to send its USS McCampbell destroyer, an MH-60 anti-submarine helicopter and a P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, while Japan said it would deploy its Sawajiri destroyer and an anti-submarine helicopter.

South Korea’s navy said in a statement that the drill would focus on detecting and “effectively responding” to possible North Korean SLBMs under simulations. The anti-SLBM drills are based on a trilateral agreement reached last December in the most recent Defense Trilateral Talks.

North Korea test-launched SLBMs three times last year on April 23, July 9 and Aug. 24, the last of which was considered by local military experts as a success because it flew more than 300 kilometers (186 miles), the required length of a successful SLBM.

Among the three ballistic missile tests Pyongyang carried out this year, the second one held on Feb. 12 was based on SLBM technology, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

South Korea’s Kang Gam Chan destroyer is one of five ships in the Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin class of destroyers deployed by the South Korean Navy.

Commissioned in 2007 and built by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, the ship was involved in a rescue operation of the South Korean supertanker Samho Dream in April 2010, which was carrying oil from Iraq to the United States when Somali pirates hijacked the ship.

The USS McCampbell destroyer intercepted a North Korean ship suspected of carrying ballistic missile parts to Myanmar in June 2009, and then again in May 2011.

Japan’s Sawajiri destroyer participated in the Exercise Rimpac, a biennial maritime exercise made up of mainly countries in the Pacific Rim, three times, and has also taken part in two Japanese military operations to combat Somali pirates.

Together with South Korea’s Kang Gam Chan destroyer, the ship patrolled waters off Somali to fend off pirates.

BY LEE CHUL-JAE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]