Japan, US, S Korea to hold missile drills

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The United States, Japan and South Korea will hold two days of missile tracking drills this week as tensions rise in the region over North Korea’s fast-developing weapons programs.

North Korea has fired two missiles over Japan as it pursues nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of UN sanctions and international condemnation. On November 29, it test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile which it said was its most advanced yet, capable of reaching the mainland United States.

The exercises, on Monday and Tuesday, will be the sixth drill sharing information in tracking ballistic missiles among the three nations, the defence force said.

The United States and South Korea conducted large-scale military drills last week, which the North said have made the outbreak of war “an established fact”.

Last month’s missile test prompted a US warning that North Korea’s leadership would be “utterly destroyed” if war were to break out. The Pentagon has mounted repeated shows of force after North Korean tests.

The United States has also pressured China and other nations to cut trade and diplomatic ties with North Korea, as part of international efforts to dry up Pyongyang’s illegal cash flows that could fund its weapons programs.

On Sunday, South Korea said it would impose new unilateral sanctions on 20 institutions and a dozen individuals in North Korea, barring any financial transactions between those sanctioned and any South Koreans.

“This unilateral sanction will prevent illegal funds flowing to North Korea and contribute to reinforce international communities’ sanctions against North Korea,” South Korea’s finance ministry said in a statement.

The move is largely symbolic as trade and financial exchanges between the two Koreas have been barred since May 2010 following the torpedoing of a South Korean warship, which the North denied

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