US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan arrives for South Korea drills

Sept 23, 2022: The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan has arrived in South Korea ahead of joint military exercises that are seen as a show of strength amid growing North Korean threats.

The Ronald Reagan and ships from its accompanying strike force docked at a naval base in the southern port city of Busan on Friday.

The arrival marks the most significant deployment yet by Washington under a new push to have more US nuclear-capable “strategic assets” operate in the region to deter North Korea.

Joint military drills in the coming days will be the first involving a US aircraft carrier in the region 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 at that time.

North Korea denounced previous US military deployments and joint drills as rehearsals for war and proof of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.

The South Korean navy said on Friday that its combined training with the Reagan battle group is meant to boost the allies’ military readiness and to show “the firm resolve by the Korea-US alliance for the sake of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula”.

The aircraft carrier’s arrival in South Korea comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told Pyongyang’s parliament this month that he would never abandon his nuclear weapons and the missiles he needs to counter what he perceives as US hostility towards the North.

Sung Kim, the Biden administration’s special representative for North Korea, met with South Korean counterpart Kim Gunn in Seoul on Thursday where they expressed “serious concern” over the North’s escalating nuclear doctrine spelled out in the new law, South Korea’s foreign ministry said.

North Korea has increased weapons testing to a record pace in 2022, launching more than 30 ballistic weapons including its intercontinental ballistic missiles as it exploits a divide in the UN Security Council deepened over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

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