US aircraft carrier arrives in South Korea to ‘deter’ Pyongyang.
Published on 2.11.2022
A US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for the first time in nearly five years, ahead of joint exercises, in a show of force targeting the nuclear-armed North.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the ships of its strike group docked in the southern port city of Busan as part of an initiative by Seoul and Washington to increase the number of American strategic assets in the region.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, has vowed to step up joint military exercises with the United States, after years of failed diplomacy with North Korea under his predecessor.
“The deployment of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in Busan demonstrates the strength of the alliance between South Korea and the United States,” an official from the South Korean Ministry of Defense told AFP.
The visit is aimed at “deterring nuclear and missile threats from North Korea”, the official added.
Pyongyang conducted a record series of weapons tests this year and earlier this month revised its nuclear law, enshrining the “first strike” doctrine and vowing never to give up its nuclear weapons.
The U.S. Navy said the USS Ronald Reagan was accompanied on its visit to South Korea by two ships from its strike group – the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the USS Barry, a guided missile destroyer.
They will take part in joint drills on South Korea’s east coast this month, Yonhap news agency reported, adding that the nuclear-powered submarine USS Annapolis is also expected to take part.
The visit to the aircraft carrier comes after months of warnings from South Korean and US officials that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is preparing to conduct another nuclear test.
The isolated regime has tested nuclear weapons six times since 2006. Its last, most powerful test, carried out in 2017 – which Pyongyang said was a hydrogen bomb – had an estimated yield of 250 kilotons.
Washington is Seoul’s main security ally and is stationing about 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect it from the North.
The two countries have long carried out joint exercises, which they claim are purely defensive, but which North Korea views as rehearsals for an invasion.
Last month, the United States and South Korea held their largest combined military exercises since 2018 – the resumption of large-scale training sessions that had been curtailed due to Covid-19 and the failure of diplomacy with Pyongyang.