A US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for the first time in about four years, ready to join other military ships in a show of force meant to send a message to North Korea, officials said.
The USS Ronald Reagan and its accompanying strike group ships docked at a naval base in the southern port city of Busan.
His arrival marks the largest deployment yet in a new push to get more US “strategic assets” operating in the region to deter North Korea.
The strike group’s commander, Rear Admiral Michael Donnelly, told reporters aboard the ship that the visit was long planned and aimed to build relationships with South Korean allies and build interoperability between the navies. .
“We leave the messages to the diplomats,” he said, when asked about any signals to North Korea, but added that the joint drills were designed to ensure allies were able to respond to threats no matter what. where and at any time.
“It’s an opportunity for us to practice tactics and operations,” Donnelly said.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has pushed for more joint drills and other displays of military might as a warning to North Korea, which has conducted a record number of missile tests this year after talks failed to persuade it to end its development of nuclear weapons and missiles. .
Observers say Pyongyang also appears to be preparing to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017.
North Korea has denounced previous US military deployments and joint drills as war rehearsals and evidence of hostile Washington and Seoul policies.
The visit is the first to South Korea by a US aircraft carrier since 2018. That year, the allies reduced many of their joint military activities as part of diplomatic efforts to engage with North Korea. , but those talks have since stalled, and Pyongyang unveiled an updated law this month codifying its right to carry out nuclear strikes first to protect itself.
Questions have arisen about the role the roughly 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea could play if conflict erupts in Taiwan.
Donnelly said these questions were for policymakers above him, but said operating with like-minded allies, such as South Korea, is a key part of the US Navy’s efforts to maintain the regional security and stability that has existed for more than seven decades.
Officials declined to provide details on upcoming joint exercises, but said the carrier would be in port for “several days” while its crew traveled to Busan. Just hours after the ship docked, long lines of crew formed as they took COVID-19 tests before being bused into the city.
New York Post