SOUTH KOREA/ UNITED STATES: A U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for the first time in roughly four years. It will join other military ships in a show of force meant to send a message to North Korea.
Before joint exercises with South Korean forces, the USS Ronald Reagan and ships from its accompanying strike group berthed at a naval facility in Busan, a port city in the south.
Its presence signifies the largest deployment yet under a new initiative to increase the number of American “strategic assets” operating in the region to deter North Korea.
The visit was intended to strengthen allied ties and improve interoperability between the fleets and the strike group commander. When asked whether the U.S. was sending any messages to North Korea, Donnelly responded, “We are leaving messaging to diplomats,” but adding that combined exercises would make sure the partners were prepared to counter any threats.
In an effort to send a message to North Korea, which this year conducted a record number of missile launches and looks to be ready to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has pushed for more joint exercises and other military power demonstrations.
North Korea has criticized earlier joint exercises and deployments of the U.S. military as preparations for war and evidence of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul. Peace activists have also protested the drills, claiming to exacerbate regional tensions.
This is an American aircraft carrier’s first trip to South Korea since 2018. Since then, several drills have been curtailed or abandoned because of diplomatic attempts with North Korea or the COVID-19 epidemic.
According to Mason Richey, a Seoul’s Hankuk University of Foreign Studies professor, the carrier visit is beneficial for political signalling, assuring Seoul, and conducting training exercises with South Korean forces. However, it probably does little to deter North Korea further.