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US, South Korea, Japan to hold drills on North Korean missiles

[SEOUL] In a sign of increasing defense cooperation, the US, Japan and South Korea will next month hold their first joint military exercises aimed at tracking North Korean missiles.

The three nations will send Aegis destroyers to participate in the drills in waters near Hawaii in late June, South Korea's Defense Ministry said Monday in a text message. The US plans separate international naval drills in the Pacific this summer.

The US has more than 75,000 troops based in Japan and South Korea, and has encouraged its two allies to put aside historical tensions and cooperate more closely.

While the drills won't include actual missile interceptions, they show progress has been made among the nations since they signed an intelligence-sharing pact in 2014.

The US is also in talks with South Korea on deploying its Thaad missile defense system on the Korean peninsula - a move that came after North Korea detonated a nuclear device and launched a long-range rocket earlier this year. China sees Thaad deployment in South Korea as a threat to its national security.

North Korea continues to test an array of ballistic missiles, including one launched from a submarine. The country is banned from developing ballistic missiles under United Nations Security Council resolutions.

BLOOMBERG