Japan, US, South Korea to hold missile tracking drill amid North Korea crisis

TOKYO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - The United States, Japan and South Korea will hold two days of missile tracking drills starting on Monday, Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force said, as tensions rise in the region over North Korea's fast-developing weapons programs.

The United States and South Korea conducted large-scale military drills last week, which the North said made the outbreak of war "an established fact."

North Korea has fired missiles over Japan as it pursues nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of U.N. sanctions and international condemnation. On Nov. 29, it test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile which it said was its most advanced yet, capable of reaching the mainland United States.

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North Korea's November 2017 missile launch
A man looks at a street monitor showing a news report about North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
EAST COAST, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 29: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, South Korea's missile system firing Hyunmu-2 missiles into the East Sea during a missile drill aimed to counter North Korea's missile test on November 29, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. In spite of US President Trump's warnings, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile early today for the first time in four months. The Pentagon has said that the missile had flown for about 1,000km (620 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
A man looks at a street monitor showing a news report about North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
People watch a television broadcast of a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed close to Japan, in Seoul, South Korea, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A woman walks past a street monitor showing North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in a news report about North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
A woman walks past a street monitor showing a news report about North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
A man walks past a street monitor showing North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in a news report about North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
A woman walks past a television broadcast of a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed close to Japan, in Seoul, South Korea, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
EAST COAST, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 29: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, South Korea's missile system firing Hyunmu-2 missiles into the East Sea during a missile drill aimed to counter North Korea's missile test on November 29, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. In spite of US President Trump's warnings, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile early today for the first time in four months. The Pentagon has said that the missile had flown for about 1,000km (620 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
EAST COAST, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 29: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, South Korea's missile system firing Hyunmu-2 missiles into the East Sea during a missile drill aimed to counter North Korea's missile test on November 29, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. In spite of US President Trump's warnings, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile early today for the first time in four months. The Pentagon has said that the missile had flown for about 1,000km (620 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
A man walks past a television screen showing a file video footage of North Korea's missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on November 29, 2017. North Korea test fired what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile on November 29, in a major challenge to US President Donald Trump after he slapped fresh sanctions on Pyongyang and declared it a state sponsor of terrorism. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A pedestrian walks in front of a television screen displaying file news footage of a North Korean missile launch, in Tokyo on November 29, 2017, following a new missile launch. Japan's prime minister said on November 29 that the latest North Korean missile launch was a 'violent act' that 'can never be tolerated' after the ICBM splashed down in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
EAST SEA, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 29: In this handout image provided by South Korean Defense Ministry, South Korean Navy destroyer launching a missile during a exercise on November 29, 2017 in East Sea, South Korea. In spite of US President Trump's warnings, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile early today for the first time in four months. The Pentagon has said that the missile had flown for about 1,000km (620 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
A pedestrian walks in front of a television screen displaying a map of Japan (R) and the Korean Peninsula in Tokyo on November 29, 2017, following a North Korean missile launch. Japan's prime minister said on November 29 that the latest North Korean missile launch was a 'violent act' that 'can never be tolerated' after the ICBM splashed down in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
EAST COAST, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 29: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, South Korea's missile system firing Hyunmu-2 missiles into the East Sea during a missile drill aimed to counter North Korea's missile test on November 29, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. In spite of US President Trump's warnings, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile early today for the first time in four months. The Pentagon has said that the missile had flown for about 1,000km (620 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
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This week's exercises will be the sixth drills sharing information in tracking ballistic missiles among the three nations, the defense force said.

It did not say whether the controversial THAAD system would be involved. The installation of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea has angered China, which fears its powerful radar could look deep into China and threaten its own security.

North Korea's missile test last month prompted a U.S. warning that North Korea's leadership would be "utterly destroyed" if war were to break out. The Pentagon has mounted repeated shows of force after North Korean tests.

The United States has also pressured China and other nations to cut trade and diplomatic ties with North Korea, as part of international efforts to dry up Pyongyang's illegal cash flows that could fund its weapons programs.

On Sunday, South Korea said it would impose new unilateral sanctions on 20 institutions and a dozen individuals in North Korea, barring any financial transactions between those sanctioned and any South Koreans.

“This unilateral sanction will prevent illegal funds flowing to North Korea and contribute to reinforce international communities' sanctions against North Korea," South Korea's finance ministry said in a statement.

The move is largely symbolic as trade and financial exchanges between the two Koreas have been barred since May 2010 following the torpedoing of a South Korean warship, which the North denied.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said the ministry plans to include 730 million yen ($6.4 million) to help build a new missile interceptor system, the Aegis Ashore, in its next fiscal year budget request, public broadcaster NHK reported.

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea, Japan and the United States and says its weapons programs are necessary to counter U.S. aggression. The United States stations 28,500 troops in the South, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. ($1 = 113.4800 yen) (Reporting by Kaori Kaneko, additional reporting by Haejin Choi in SEOUL, Editing by Nick Macfie)

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