The arrival marks the most significant deployment yet amid a push for more nuclear-capable US “assets” to deter North Korea.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan has arrived in South Korea ahead of joint military exercises seen as a show of force amid growing North Korean threats.
The USS Ronald Reagan and its accompanying strike force ships docked at a naval base in the southern port city of Busan on Friday.
This arrival represents the most significant deployment to date by Washington as part of a new push to acquire more nuclear-capable US “strategic assets” to operate in the region to deter North Korea.
The joint military exercises in the coming days will be the first involving a US aircraft carrier in the region since 2017, when the US sent three aircraft carriers including Reagan to conduct naval exercises with South Korea in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests at the time. .
North Korea has condemned the previous US military deployment and the joint exercises as rehearsals for war and evidence of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.
Reporting from the roof of Ronald Reagan’s plane, Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride said the stated mission of the joint exercises was to demonstrate “the determination of these allies in the face of renewed North Korean threats.”
This is a way to demonstrate the strength of the alliance in the face of what the United States and South Korea say are the growing threats from North Korea. From a North Korean point of view, they always get pissed off at these exercises,” McBride said.
He said joint military exercises have been scaled back in recent years to allow for “summit diplomacy in an effort to persuade the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons.”
“Obviously they didn’t,” he added.
McBride said North Korea would likely view the exercises as justification for their “position that they need to uphold their great nuclear weapons at all costs as a guarantee of their survival in what they see as a hostile world.”
The South Korean Navy said Friday that its joint exercise with the Reagan Combat Group is aimed at enhancing allies’ military readiness and demonstrating “the unwavering determination of the Korea-US alliance for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
As North Korea resumes major weapons tests, Seoul and Washington have revived their large-scale military exercises that had been scaled back or canceled in previous years to support diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang or due to COVID-19.
The North Korean threat is also expected to be on the main agenda when US Vice President Kamala Harris visits South Korea next week after attending a state funeral in Tokyo for slain former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
it is a great day #fly! ✈️🌊 Tweet embedThe only aircraft carrier deployed forward, participating in routine flight operations while in # Filipino sea. #Battleship 76#FreeandOpenIndoPacific #PresenceMatters pic.twitter.com/BlfJ0ud5aj
– USS Ronald Reagan (@Gipper_76) September 22 2022
The aircraft carrier’s arrival in South Korea comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told Pyongyang’s parliament this month that he will not give up the nuclear weapons and missiles it needs to counter what he sees as US hostility toward the North.
North Korea also passed a new law that enshrined its status as a nuclear power and authorized the preventive use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of scenarios in which the country or its leadership would be threatened.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Sung Kim, the Biden administration’s special representative in North Korea, met his South Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un in Seoul on Thursday where they expressed “grave concerns” about North Korea’s escalating nuclear doctrine enshrined in the new law.
The diplomats renewed the US commitment to defend South Korea in the event of a nuclear war with its full military capabilities, including nuclear.
The ministry said the allies also maintained their months-long assessment that North Korea was preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017 and discussed “severe” countermeasures to such a measure.
North Korea increased weapons testing to a record pace in 2022, firing more than 30 ballistic weapons including its ICBMs while exploiting a deepening split in the United Nations Security Council over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
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