S. Korea, US and Japan to conduct joint aerial exercise for 1st time: source

South Korea, the United States and Japan plan to conduct a joint aerial exercise for the first time near the Korean Peninsula next week, a source said Thursday, amid efforts to bolster three-way security cooperation against North Korean threats.

The trilateral aerial exercise is scheduled for Sunday over the Korean Peninsula, involving the US strategic bomber B-52 currently deployed to South Korea.

"The joint aerial exercise involving South Korean, US and Japanese Air Forces will consist of a formation flight with the B-52 escorted fighter jets from the three countries," a source familiar with the matter said.

The nuclear-capable B-52 landed in South Korea for the first time Tuesday, after it staged a commemorative flight over a biennial defense trade show in the country and joint air drills with South Korean stealth fighter jets.

Although the B-52s -- considered a key US strategic asset -- have previously been deployed over the Korean Peninsula for joint air drills with the South Korean Air Force, it marked the first time the bomber landed at an air base in the country.

During a parliamentary audit last week, Gen. Kim Seung-kyum, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said South Korea, the US and Japan plan to stage joint aerial drills as part of efforts to expand the trilateral security coordination.

The latest move comes after the leaders of the three nations agreed to strengthen security cooperation in response to North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threats during their summit in Camp David in August.

Last week, Seoul, Washington and Tokyo staged a trilateral maritime interdiction exercise in waters south of the Korean Peninsula for the first time in seven years. (Yonhap)

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