US and Japan stage military exercises off Korean Peninsula

The intermediate-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2's launch test

On Thursday, Japanese destroyers Hyuga and Ashigara joined the U.S. aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan, in the sea, which separates Japan from the Korean Peninsula, Japan's military said.

The most recent exercise comes just three days after North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile which landed in the Sea of Japan, about 300km (186 miles) off the Japanese coast and in Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The United States sent the warships to the region after a surge of tension on the Korean peninsula over fears the North was about to conduct a sixth nuclear test, or another test in its bid to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the mainland United States.

The Japan MSDF also conducted joint exercises with the USS Carl Vinson strike group in April.

A South Korean TV viewer watches footage of North Korea "supreme leader" Kim Jong Un.

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson (L) and USS Ronald Reagan sail with their strike groups and Japanese naval ships during training in the Sea of Japan, June 1, 2017.

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The US military has also deployed the controversial THAAD missile system to a site in South Korea to counter what it calls threats from the North.

The U.S. government has not specified a "red line" that would trigger the start of military operations.

American aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines are now sailing the Sea of Japan, in addition to Japan's Self-Defense Forces.

At the same time, Japan's Air Self Defense Force F-15s are taking part in simulated combat with US Navy F-18 fighters, the military added.

In April, the US military used its most powerful conventional bomb - dubbed the "mother of all bombs" - for the first time in Afghanistan.

North Korea claimed the United States will not change its ambition to "win military dominance over the Asia-Pacific region". However, many observers believe the likelihood of such an attack is low. "As long as there is a risk of casualties in a counterstrike, it's impossible to imagine that the United States would launch a preemptive strike".

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