US, Seoul start drills in show of force
The United States and South Korea yesterday started joint naval exercises that will involve three US aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea.
The four-day drills off South Korea’s eastern coast come as President Donald Trump continues a visit to Asia that has been dominated by discussions over the North Korean nuclear threat.
The battle groups of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Nimitz will successively enter the exercise area during the drills that run until Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The three carriers will be likely together in the drills around Monday, according to a South Korean military official.
The exercises will also involve 11 US Aegis ships and seven South Korean naval vessels. The Aegis technology refers to missile tracking and guidance.
They will aim to enhance combined operation and aerial strike capabilities and also display “strong will and firm military readiness to defeat any provocation by North Korea with dominant force in the event of crisis”, Seoul’s military said.
It’s the first time since a 2007 exercise near Guam that three US carrier strike groups are operating together in the Western Pacific, according to the US Navy’s 7th Fleet.
The US carriers will also take part in separate exercises with three Japanese destroyers today, according to Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force.
America has been sending its strategic assets, including longrange bombers, to the region more frequently for patrols or drills amid accelerating North Korean efforts to expand its nuclear weapons programme.