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US aircraft carrier arrives in South Korea as a warning to North Korea

US aircraft carrier arrives in South Korea as a warning to North Korea

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BUSAN, South Korea (September 23) (Reuters) – A US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for the first time in nearly four years, set to join other military ships in a show of force aimed at sending a message to North Korea.

The USS Ronald Reagan and ships from its escort strike group docked at a naval base in the southern port city of Busan.

Its arrival represents the most significant deployment to date, with a new push to have more US “strategic assets” in the region to deter North Korea.

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The commander of the strike group, Admiral Michael Donnelly, told reporters aboard the ship that the visit was long planned and aimed at building relationships with South Korean allies and promoting inter-naval engagement.

Asked about any reference to North Korea, he said, “We leave messages for diplomats,” but added that the joint exercises are designed to ensure that allies are able to respond to threats anywhere, anytime.

“It’s an opportunity for us to practice tactics and operations,” Donnelly said.

South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol has pushed for more joint exercises and other military displays of force as a warning to North Korea, which this year conducted a record number of missile tests after talks failed to persuade it to end development of its nuclear weapons and missiles. .

Observers say Pyongyang appears to be preparing to resume nuclear tests for the first time since 2017.

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North Korea denounced the previous US military deployment and the joint exercises as rehearsals for war and evidence of the hostile policies of Washington and Seoul.

The United States pledged last week to “continue to deploy and exercise strategic assets in the region in a timely and effective manner to deter and respond to (North Korea) and enhance regional security,” and referred to the tanker’s visit as “clear evidence of this American commitment.”

However, when announcing the visit, the US Navy made no mention of North Korea, referring only to a “regularly scheduled port visit” and emphasizing crew members who visit Busan to volunteer at orphanages and explore the K-pop music scene.

Officials declined to give details of the upcoming joint exercises, but said the carrier would be in port for “several days” while its crew visits Busan. Just hours after the ship docked, long queues of crew members formed as they took COVID-19 tests before they were taken to town.

One crew member, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media, said they were looking forward to a break but geopolitical tensions were constantly present.

“You can’t really forget what we are all here for,” one crew member told Reuters.

The visit is the first to South Korea by a US aircraft carrier since 2018. That year, allies scaled back many of their joint military activities amid diplomatic efforts to deal with North Korea, but those talks have since stalled, and this month Pyongyang revealed itself. An updated law codifies its right to launch nuclear strikes with priority use to protect itself.

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Questions have been raised about the role the approximately 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea might play if conflict over Taiwan erupts.

Donnelly said such questions concern the policymakers who precede him, but said that working with like-minded allies like South Korea is an essential part of the US Navy’s efforts to maintain regional security and stability that have been in place for more than seven decades.

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Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Lincoln Fest and Jerry Doyle

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.