This is a first in almost five years. A US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday ahead of joint exercises in a show of force against nuclear-armed North Korea. The nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan and ships from its task force docked in the southeastern port city of Busan. “The deployment of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier to Busan demonstrates the strength of the alliance between South Korea and the United States,” an official at the South Korean Ministry of Defense told AFP.
The arrival of these American military ships is intended to “deter nuclear and missile threats from North Korea”, he added. The warships will take part in this month’s joint maneuvers on South Korea’s east coast, Yonhap news agency reported, adding that the nuclear-powered submarine USS Annapolis is also expected to take part.
Seoul and Washington want to increase the number of American strategic forces present in the region. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, has promised to step up joint military exercises with the United States after diplomacy under his predecessor failed. Pyongyang has conducted a record number of missile tests this year and at the beginning of the month reviewed its legislation on its nuclear arsenal, which it has ruled out giving up.
Nuclear tests in North Korea
The arrival of the aircraft carrier comes after several months of warnings by South Korean and American officials, warning that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could conduct a new nuclear test. North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests since 2006. The last, most powerful dates back to 2017 and was carried out according to Pyongyang with a hydrogen bomb with a power of 250 kilotons.
Washington is a close security ally of Seoul. Some 28,500 American soldiers are stationed in South Korea to protect it from its neighbor. The two countries have long conducted joint exercises which they describe as defensive, but which Pyongyang sees as rehearsals for an invasion.
Last month, Washington and Seoul conducted their biggest joint drills since 2018, after large-scale training was curtailed due to the pandemic and diplomatic failures vis-à-vis Pyongyang.