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(2nd LD) S. Korea, U.S., Japan set for joint drills against N. Korean submarines

All Headlines 12:25 April 03, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with background in last 6 paras)

SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea, the United States and Japan will hold a combined naval exercise this week against North Korea's growing submarine threats, Seoul's defense ministry announced Monday.

The three-day training is scheduled to kick off later in the day in the waters between South Korea and Japan near Jeju Island, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

It's aimed at securing an "effective response" by the three countries to the North's submarine threats, especially as it's developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), it added.

South Korea's Navy will dispatch the 4,500-ton Kang Gam Chan destroyer and a Lynx helicopter, with the U.S. sending the USS McCampbell, a destroyer armed with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, an MH-60 anti-submarine chopper and a P-3 Orion patrol plane. Japan's chopper-carrying destroyer, the Sawagiri, will also join the drill.

South Korean warships stage an anti-submarine drill in this undated file photo provided by the Navy. (Yonhap)

In the practice, they will "search, detect and track a mock submarine, and exchange relevant information," it said.

"The anti-submarine training of the three countries is the first since it was discussed in their Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT) in December," the ministry said, adding it represents their strong determination against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

The move comes amid reports that the North is apparently preparing for another nuclear test and more missile launches.

Both South Korea and Japan are U.S. allies. Seoul and Tokyo signed an agreement last year on sharing military information, called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).

Japan's media reported earlier that Tokyo and Washington had made an offer for such a joint anti-submarine training shortly after the deal, but Seoul turned it down.

The report sparked speculation that South Korea made the decision in consideration of relations with China.

But South Korean officials said it was just a matter of timing, not because of Seoul's rejection.

Seoul and Tokyo have been in a renewed diplomatic stand-off for months over the installation by civic activists of a girl statute in front of Japan's diplomatic mission in Busan to commemorate Korean women forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II.

In January, Japan recalled its ambassador from Seoul over the incident. He has yet to return.

lcd@yna.co.kr
(END)

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