Japanese and U.S. destroyers equipped with the Aegis missile interceptor system conducted a joint exercise earlier this week in the Sea of Japan, the Maritime Self-Defense Force said Friday, in a fresh show of force as North Korea's nuclear and missile threat grows.

The two-day information-sharing drill through Thursday aimed at enhancing cooperation in shooting down ballistic missiles involved the U.S. destroyers Mobile Bay and Spruance, which both belong to the strike group headed by the nuclear-powered Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, and Japan's Aegis-equipped destroyer Kongou, according to the MSDF.

The U.S. strike group started the exercise in the Sea of Japan on April 8 with MSDF vessels, according to the U.S. 7th Fleet, ahead of the 110th anniversary on Friday of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder and the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un.

In connection with the North Korean anniversary, speculation has been growing that Pyongyang will conduct a nuclear test or fire an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean.

During the exercise, the Japanese and U.S. vessels coordinated their response to an incoming missile, sharing radar information and simulating interception procedures, according to the MSDF.

MSDF Aegis destroyers are equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors and tasked with hitting incoming missiles in the outer atmosphere. If they fail, the Air Self-Defense Force's ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors will counter the attack in the lower tier.

North Korea on March 24 made the first launch of an ICBM since November 2017, marking an end to its self-imposed moratorium on ICBM tests since April 2018.