Japanese ships join US carrier for drills

Indo Asian News Service

Tokyo, April 23 (IANS) Two Japanese destroyers began joint naval drills on Sunday with the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group in the Pacific Ocean as it nears waters off the Korean Peninsula.

According to Japan's Defencee Ministry, the destroyers "Ashigara" and "Samidare", which set sail on Friday, joined the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier near the Philippine archipelago, Efe news reported.

The US and Japanese vessels were set to conduct drills based on various scenarios for several days, ministry sources told public broadcaster NHK.

Washington announced two weeks ago that it had ordered the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson to the Korean peninsula amid rising tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear arms development programme.

Reports suggest Seoul and Washington may also be discussing the possibility of conducting joint naval drills involving the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered ship.

Tensions have escalated in the region since the beginning of April, when Washington hinted at a preemptive strike against Pyongyang, which was followed by a failed missile test by North Korea on April 16.

Observers fear the Kim Jong-un regime is preparing to conduct a new underground nuclear test over the next few days, following the release of satellite photos that appeared to show heightened activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test centre.

--IANS

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