South Korea said on Monday that it is in talks with Washington about holding joint drills with the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group amid fears that North Korea could conduct another nuclear test.
The US carrier strike group was ordered by US President Donald Trump to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to rising tension over the North's nuclear and missile tests. However, the US has not specified where the carrier strike group is as it approaches the area.
South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said Seoul was holding discussions with the US Navy. But, Gyun did not reveal any further details about the joint military drills.
Japan joined US
Meanwhile, Japan's navy, which is mostly a destroyer fleet, is the second largest in Asia after China's, has already joined the US strike group for military drills as it nears the Korean waters. On Friday, two Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left western Japan to join the Carl Vinson.
The Japan Maritime Self Defence Force had said in a statement that they will "practice a variety of tactics" with the US strike group. The Japanese force did not specify where the exercises were taking place.
North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday. In the past, it has marked important anniversaries with tests of its weapons.
Pyongyang's nuclear programme
Till now, Pyongyang has already conducted five nuclear tests, two of which were tested last year. At present, it is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States. The North has also carried out a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of United Nations sanctions. Analysts say that the growing nuclear and missile threat of North Korea is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting Trump.
Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the US with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.
North Korea is on a quest to develop long-range missiles and has threatened the US that the missiles will be capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead. It has also threatened to lay waste to South Korea and Japan.