Japan, US to conduct biggest ever military drill

Japan and the United States will hold their biggest ever joint military drills just days after a US and South Korean show of force amid tensions on the Korean peninsula, officials said Thursday.

The previously announced "Keen Sword" drills, which were planned before North Korea’s artillery barrage of a South Korean island last week, will take place from Friday to December 10, a US military official confirmed.

"Keen Sword will cap the 50th anniversary of the Japan-US alliance as an ‘alliance of equals’," Major William Vause, chief of operational plans, training and exercises said in a statement.

"It is the largest bilateral exercise between the United States and Japan military forces."

To demonstrate solidarity with Seoul, the Pacific allies will for the first time invite South Korean military officers to observe the drills, Japanese officials said.

"It turns out to be good timing to show the bond between Japan and the United States," a senior Japanese defence ministry official told the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, with the drill following US-South Korea exercises that ended Wednesday.

Around 34,000 Japanese military personnel with 40 warships and 250 aircraft will join more than 10,000 US counterparts with 20 warships and 150 aircraft in the drill in Japanese waters off its southern islands, close to the southern coast of South Korea.

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