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U.S., Japan military drills include cyberspace coordination

By
Elizabeth Shim
U.S. and Japanese troops take part in the reconnaissance and shooting training of the joint military exercise Orient Shield 2019 in Kumamoto, Japan in September. The two sides started an annual exercise on Monday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
U.S. and Japanese troops take part in the reconnaissance and shooting training of the joint military exercise "Orient Shield 2019" in Kumamoto, Japan in September. The two sides started an annual exercise on Monday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. and Japanese forces began engaging in joint exercises on Monday.

Yama Sakura, the annual exercise that first started in 1982, involves 6,600 troops. It is taking place only days after North Korea said it had conducted a "very important test" at its Sohae satellite launch station.

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The exercises aim to increase cooperation in cyberspace and other "new areas" involving the Japanese ground self-defense force, according to television network NHK.

The drills are scheduled to run until Dec. 16, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

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Training will include scenarios in which Japan is hit by ballistic missiles and is under guerrilla attack. The two armies will also rehearse responses to cyberattacks that break the chain of command, according to reports.

In August, Japan began to move ahead with plans to build an electronic warfare unit, possibly as a check against Chinese maneuvers in disputed areas of the East China Sea.

By late 2020, Japan could add a new electronic warfare unit with about 80 troops. EW can be applied from air, sea or land and can target people, communication, radar or other assets.

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On Monday, Japan's military said 1,600 U.S. troops, including members of the United States Army Pacific would take part in the exercises. Australian and Canadian troops are to participate as observers for the first time this year, according to reports.

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The scheduled drills are taking place at a time when North Korea has increased tensions with its neighbors.

On Monday, Tokyo's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Japan is monitoring North Korea in cooperation with the United States.

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Suga said Tokyo and Washington are collecting the necessary data on activities related to a reported ICBM engine test at Sohae, according to reports.

The Japanese official also said Tokyo's offer of "unconditional talks" with North Korea is still on the table, citing a recent statement from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe had said on Saturday in Kumamoto Prefecture he seeks talks to resolve the issue of abductions.

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