April 3 (UPI) -- The United States, South Korea and Japan held a joint anti-submarine exercise aimed at deterring North Korea threats.
The drill was held in response to Pyongyang's advancing submarine-launched ballistic missile program, South Korean newspaper Segye Ilbo reported Monday.
The exercise marks the first time Japan has participated in joint drills in and around the peninsula, working with both U.S. and South Korea forces, according to the report.
The United States and South Korea, on the other hand, have been conducting joint exercises at regular intervals since 2010, when North Korea torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan.
On Monday, the U.S. Navy deployed the USS McCampbell, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the MH-60 Seahawk helicopter, an anti-submarine multi-mission chopper, and the Lockheed P-3 Orion, a anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the Navy.
South Korea deployed its 4,500-ton Kang Gam Chan destroyer and a Lynx chopper, and Japan sent its Sawagiri destroyer and an anti-submarine helicopter.
Seoul's defense ministry said the exercises run from Monday to Wednesday.
The drills are taking place in waters between Japan and South Korea, near the South Korean resort island of Jeju.
A South Korean defense ministry official said the "drill was intended to improve the three countries' anti-submarine search, identification and tracking capabilities so as to ensure their effective response to threats from North Korea, which is developing SLBMs."
Communications, interoperability and partnership were the purpose of the drills, the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet said in a separate statement.
The drills included navigating, tracking and identifying mock submarines and were part of plans that were set during the Defense Trilateral Talks, Seoul's defense ministry said.
South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo also met with U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift on Monday to discuss joint defense measures against North Korea military threats.