Naval forces of the US, Japan and South Korea completed a trilateral missile defence drill, dubbed Pacific Dragon (PD), on Tuesday (28 June). The biennial ballistic missile defence (BMD) tracking event that focuses on "improving tactical and technical coordination" is seen as an answer to the threats posed by the recent missile tests conducted by North Korea.

The American Navy said in a statement that the third biennial PD exercise was conducted between 20 and 28 June off the coast of the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Kauai, Hawaii. The US Navy, the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force and the Republic of Korea Navy were the participants.

During the drill, naval vessels like the USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), USS Shoup (DDG 86), JS Chokai (DDG 176), ROKS Sejung The Great (DDG 991) and ROKS Gang Gam Chan (DDH 979) underwent co-ordination tests that included detection, tracking and reporting of ballistic targets. No missiles were fired during the event, but all the participants "strengthened interoperability, communication channels, data collection, and capabilities assessments", the statement added.

This year's exercise included "a coordinated live ballistic target tracking event" that helped the three participants test and improve their Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence System capabilities. The nations also shared tactical data link information under a trilateral information sharing agreement.

"Pacific Dragon not only allows participants the opportunity to exercise ballistic missile defence, but it enhances the already strong relationship of all three nations participating," Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander, US 3rd Fleet, said.

"The ability to work together at sea, especially on aspects such as BMD, humanitarian relief, as well as search and rescue operations benefits the shared security interests of all three nations. This type of maritime cooperation enhances security, stability and peace throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific," the US Navy said in the statement. It noted that the US 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and also provides realistic and relevant training required to run an effective global navy.

Meanwhile, the North Korean foreign ministry termed the drill as "another military provocation perpetrated by the US" and said it has the strategic capability to carry out a "pre-emptive nuclear attack" if it faces security threats.