US aircraft carrier and South Korean warships begin new drills amid tensions

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FILE – The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is escorted as it arrives in Busan, South Korea, Sept. 23, 2022. North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles towards its eastern waters on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. Thursday’s launches came as the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan returned to waters east of South Korea in what the South Korean military called an attempt to demonstrate ‘strong will’ allies to counter ongoing provocations and threats from the North. (AP Photo/Lee ​​Jin-man, File)

PA

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan launched a new series of naval exercises with South Korean warships on Friday, a day after North Korea fired more ballistic missiles and piloted warplanes in an escalation of tensions with its rivals.

The Reagan and her battle group returned to waters near the Korean Peninsula after North Korea launched a nuclear-capable missile over Japan earlier this week in response to the carrier battle group’s previous training with South Korean Navy ships. North Korea views U.S.-South Korean military drills as a practice to invade the country.

The latest two-day drills, which also involve US and South Korean destroyers and other vessels, were taking place in international waters off the east coast of the peninsula. The drills are aimed at bolstering allied defense capabilities and will involve training to escort the Reagan to the southeast of South Korea’s Jeju Island, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

“We will continue to strengthen our firm operational capabilities and readiness to respond to any provocation from North Korea,” the statement said.

North Korea may react to new exercises with more missile tests. The North Korean Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the redeployment of the carrier group posed “a serious threat to the stability of the situation on the Korean peninsula and its surroundings”.

Later Friday, top nuclear envoys from South Korea, the United States and Japan held trilateral phone talks and agreed to step up efforts to block alleged cryptocurrency thefts from the North and others. means to fund its nuclear and missile programs. The envoys also decided to consolidate international cooperation to control North Korea’s attempts to evade UN sanctions such as a ban on ship-to-ship sea transfers, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs.

North Korea’s record pace of weapons testing this year aims to expand its arsenal so it can credibly threaten the continental United States and its regional allies with nuclear weapons, then engage in negotiations with the United States. from a stronger position as a recognized nuclear state. Its two ballistic missile launches on Thursday were the North’s sixth round of weapons launches in less than two weeks.

The North Korean intermediate-range missile tested on Tuesday was likely a Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam in the Pacific, observers said. Other missiles launched recently are short-range weapons that target South Korea.

North Korea is ready to conduct its first nuclear test in five years and is preparing to test a new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile and a submarine-launched ballistic missile, deputy minister Heo Tae-keun told lawmakers. South Korean national defense policy. earlier this week.

On Friday, Heo held trilateral video calls with his American and Japanese counterparts to discuss North Korea’s recent missile tests. They stressed that security cooperation between the three countries would be strengthened if the North continued its provocations, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

On Thursday, naval destroyers from the three countries conducted day-long joint exercises off the east coast of the peninsula to hone their abilities to search, track and intercept North Korean ballistic missiles. Last week they held anti-submarine drills involving the Reagans in the area.

North Korea also flew 12 warplanes tens of kilometers (miles) from the inter-Korean border, prompting the South to send 30 military jets in response. There were no clashes.

The eight North Korean fighter jets and four bombers reportedly carried out air-to-ground gunnery exercises, the South Korean military said. Yonhap news agency reported that it was probably North Korea’s largest mobilization of fighter jets for such an exercise near the border.

This story was originally published October 6, 2022 11:08 p.m.

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