The US and South Korean (ROK) naval forces have begun a joint maritime counter-special operations exercise (MCSOFEX) in the East Sea.

The launch of this exercise comes a day after North Korea (DPRK) launched a short-range ballistic missile on the east coast of the Korean Peninsula region.

The DPRK’s move was reportedly in response to US Vice-President Kamala Harris’ upcoming scheduled visit to South Korea and Japan.

Being held for the first time in five years, MCSOFEX aims to bolster maritime interoperability, techniques and tactics between the US and ROK.

The five-day long joint exercise is due to run until 29 September.

The exercise will be conducted by the US Navy’s Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which arrived in Busan last week.

Its primary focus is to strengthen the two nations’ bilateral alliance and enhance regional security by undertaking several maritime manoeuvres.

According to the US Indo-Pacific Command, the latest drills will be defensive in nature and are being held as part of the CSG’s routine operations. 

In addition, the forces will perform anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare missions, subject matter expert exchanges, boarding drills, live fires and air defence exercises.

Task Force (CTF) 70/CSG V commander rear admiral Michael Donnelly said: “Our combined ROK-US naval force is demonstrating its strength and resolve by conducting this exercise together to build our combat readiness.

“The Republic of Korea and the US share one of the strongest alliances in the world and we grow stronger as an alliance because of our routine exercises here in South Korea and the close relationship and ties that we forge from operating at sea together.”

Participating assets from the US Navy include the Nimitz-class USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) aircraft carrier and the USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser.

The US has also deployed two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, USS Barry (DDG 52) and USS Benfold (DDG 65), for the exercise.