A US aircraft carrier and its combat group conducted exercises with South Korean warships off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula on Monday in their first exercise in five years. This comes a day after North Korea tested a short-range ballistic missile, possibly in response to the drills.
North Korea may conduct another test in the coming days as it views these US-South Korean military exercises as practice for invasion and often reacts by displaying weapons designed to attack its opponent.
The four-day exercise is meant to demonstrate the allies’ “strong determination in responding to North Korean provocations” and enhance their ability to conduct joint naval operations, the South Korean Navy said in a statement.
More than 20 US and South Korean Navy ships, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, a US cruiser and South Korean and US destroyers, were deployed for the exercise, the navy said. It also said that US and South Korean fighter jets and helicopters were taking part in the exercise.
It was the first exercise of this kind involving a US aircraft carrier near the peninsula since 2017, when the US sent three aircraft carriers including the Reagan for naval exercises with South Korea, in response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests. The two allies have since canceled or scaled back some of their regular drills in support of now stalled talks over North Korea’s nuclear program or because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The North Korean missile fired on Sunday flew about 600 kilometers with a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers before falling into waters off North Korea’s east coast, according to South Korean estimates. Some experts say North Korea may have launched a nuclear-capable, highly maneuverable ballistic missile. The 600-kilometer range has enough range to attack ports in southeastern South Korea, where the Reagan previously anchored.
North Korea has carried out a record missile test this year while vehemently rejecting US and South Korean calls to restart nuclear diplomacy. North Korea has said it will not return to talks until the US abandons its hostile policy of referring to US-South Korean military exercises and US-led economic sanctions against the country. [uh/ab]