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US carrier, South Korea ships launch drills amid North’s threat

The United States and South Korea are undertaking joint military exercises the day after North Korea launched a missile in the region.

September 26, 2022
By HYUNG-JIN KIM
26 September 2022

A US aircraft carrier and its battle group launched drills with South Korean warships off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast on Monday in their first such training in five years, a day after North Korea test-fired a short-range ballistic missile in a possible response to the exercise.

North Korea could conduct more tests in coming days as it views US-South Korean military exercises as a practice to invade the county and often reacts with displays of weapons designed to attack its rivals.

The four days of drills are aimed at demonstrating the allies’ “powerful resolve to respond to North Korean provocations” and improve their ability to perform 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 mobilized for the drills, according to the navy statement. It said US and South Korean fighter jets and helicopters will also take part in the training.

A US soldier checks the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet on the deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in Busan, South Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

It would be the first such joint drills involving a US aircraft carrier near the peninsula since 2017, when the US sent three aircraft carriers including the Reagan for naval drills with South Korea in response to North Korean nuclear and missile tests.

The allies had since cancelled or downsized some of their regular drills to support now-dormant talks on North Korea’s nuclear program or guard against Covid-19.

South Korea Koreas Tensions The North Korean threat is an expected key topic when the US vice president visits South Korea.AP PHOTO
The North Korean threat is an expected key topic when the US vice president visits South Korea. (AP Photo)

The North Korean missile fired on Sunday flew about 600km at the maximum altitude of 60km before falling into the waters off the North’s east coast, according to South Korean estimates.

Some experts say North Korea might have launched a nuclear-capable, highly maneuverable ballistic missile and that its 600km-flight had enough range to strike a southeastern South Korean port where the Reagan was previously docked.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech during a parliament in Pyongyang earlier this month. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

North Korea has performed a record number of missile tests this year as it steadfastly rebuffs US and South Korean calls to resume the nuclear diplomacy. North Korea has said it won’t return to talks unless the United States drops its hostile policies in an apparent reference to US-South Korean military drills and US-led economic sanctions on it.

Earlier this month, North Korea adopted a new law that authorized the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in some situations, a development that showed its increasingly aggressive nuclear doctrine.

Some analysts say North Korea would eventually aim for arms control negotiations with the United States to get sanctions relief and other concessions in return for a partial surrender of its nuclear capability.

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