South Korea, US begin combined naval exercise involving USS Ronald Reagan

More than 20 navy ships were mobilised for the drills, with fighter jets and helicopters as well


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Photos: Yonhap
Photos: Yonhap

Published: Mon 26 Sep 2022, 8:56 AM

On Monday, a US aircraft carrier and its battle group launched drills with South Korean warships off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast 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 the coming days, as it views US-South Korean military exercises as practice for an invasion, 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 improving 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, as well as South Korean and US destroyers — were mobilised for the drills, according to the navy statement. It said US and South Korean fighter jets and helicopters would also take part in the training.

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 to guard against Covid-19.

The North Korean missile fired on Sunday flew about 600km, at a maximum altitude of 60km and a Mach 5 speed, 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 600-kilometre-flight had enough range to strike a southeastern South Korean port, where the Reagan was previously docked.

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

Earlier this month, North Korea adopted a new law that authorised the pre-emptive 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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