US, Seoul start drills in show of force

Herald on Sunday - - WORLD -

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.

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