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

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BUSAN, South Korea (September 23) (Reuters) – A U.S. 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, officials said. .

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.

This is the first visit 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, Pyongyang revealed this month. An updated law codifies its right to launch nuclear strikes with priority use to protect itself.

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.

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.

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

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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