An alliance between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo is seeking ways to ensure an "effective response," should the DPRK make good on its promises to launch a nuclear attack.
On Monday, the trio initiated war games to practice thwarting a DPRK submarine. The drills took place near Jeju Island and will last three days.
In the event that North Korea goes rogue with its nuclear capabilities, Japan’s submarine-hunting helicopter carrier, the Sawagiri, the USS McCampbell, and the South Korean Navy’s Kang Jam Chan warship will be prepared to quash the threat.
The exercises aimed to "search, detect and track a mock submarine, and exchange relevant information," based on the results of the practice drills, according to a statement from the South Korean ministry of defense.
North Korea is wanton for allies, but recent provocations and missile testing suggest tensions may get worse before they improve.
It would mark a tectonic shift in the post-WWII world order if Tokyo initiated a first strike against Pyongyang, but some of its leaders say they are prepared to do just that.
The countries participating in the drills may be as important as one that is absent: China.
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump said Washington would "act alone" to "solve North Korea" if China refuses to cooperate. The strategic timing here is significant: later this week, the Trump administration will meet with China’s delegation from Beijing, led by President Xi Jinping.
"China has great influence over North Korea," Trump pointed out. "And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that it will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone."