A US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for the first time in about four years 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 ships from her escort task force docked at a naval base in the southern port city of Busan.
His arrival marks the most significant deployment yet in a new push to deploy more US “strategic assets” in the region to deter North Korea.
The strike group’s commander, Rear Admiral Michael Donnelly, told reporters aboard the ship that the visit had been long-planned and aimed to build ties with South Korean allies and improve interoperability between the navies.
“We leave the messaging to the diplomats,” he said when asked about a signal to North Korea, but added that joint drills have been developed to ensure allies can respond to threats anytime, anywhere.
“It’s an opportunity for us to practice tactics and operations,” Donnelly said.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has urged more joint drills and other displays of military might as a warning to North Korea, which conducted a record number of missile tests this year after talks failed to persuade it to end its nuclear weapons and missile development.
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 operations and joint exercises as war exercises and evidence of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.
An American aircraft carrier’s visit to South Korea is the first since 2018. This year the allies scaled back many of their joint military activities as part of diplomatic efforts to work with North Korea, but those talks have since stalled, and Pyongyang was unveiled this month an updated law that establishes his right to conduct first-use nuclear strikes to protect himself.
Questions have arisen about the role the roughly 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea could play if a conflict erupts over Taiwan.
Donnelly said such questions are above him for policymakers, but said 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 existed for more than seven decades.
Officials declined to give details of the upcoming joint drills but said the airline will be in port for “several days” while its crew visited Busan. Just hours after the ship docked, long lines of crew members formed as they conducted COVID-19 tests before being taken to the city by bus.
https://nypost.com/2022/09/23/uss-ronald-reagan-arrives-in-south-korea-as-warning-to-north/ The USS Ronald Reagan arrives in South Korea as a warning to North Korea