US, South Korea and Japan to hold first joint anti-missile drills against North Korea

South Korea's Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun announces a plan to carry out a joint exercise with the United States and Japan in Hawaii in June, on May 16, 2016.
South Korea's Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun announces a plan to carry out a joint exercise with the United States and Japan in Hawaii in June, on May 16, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea, Japan and the United States will hold their first anti-missile drills together next month to guard against threats from nuclear-armed North Korea, a Seoul official said on Monday (May 16).

The drill will be held in the waters near Hawaii on June 28, said an official at the Seoul's defense ministry, ahead of the US-led Rim of the Pacific naval exercises.

"The training will involve detecting and tracing an imaginary missile from North Korea, but will not include missile interception," said the official.

The US will launch an airplane as a mock-up missile, which all three countries will monitor from ships equipped with an Aegis anti-missile system, Yonhap news agency reported.

The upcoming exercise was proposed at a trilateral military meeting held after the North's long-range rocket launch in February, the official added.

The rocket launch - held a month after Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test and seen as a disguised ballistic missile test - drew widespread condemnation and prompted the UN Security Council to slap its toughest sanctions ever on North Korea.

Existing UN resolutions forbid the North from the use of any ballistic missile-related technology.

Pyongyang responded by launching a series of short-range missiles off its east coast and trying - although unsuccessfully - to test-fire a powerful, new medium-range missile in April.

The North has recently claimed a series of major technical breakthroughs in developing what it sees as the ultimate goal of its nuclear drive: an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.