US carriers, South Korean warships begin new exercise amid tensions

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan began a new series of naval drills with South Korean warships on Friday, a day after North Korea fired more ballistic missiles and piloted warplanes in part for an increase in its tests on the weapons.

Reagan and his battle group returned to the waters off the Korean Peninsula after North Korea launched a nuclear-capable missile on Japan earlier this week in response to the battle group’s first training with ships from the South Korean Navy. North Korea sees the US-South Korea military exercise as an exercise aimed at attacking the country.

The last two-day exercise, which also involved US and South Korean destroyers and other ships, was taking place in international waters off the peninsula’s east coast. South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement that the exercise aims to build defense capabilities for allies and will include training to escort Reagan southeast of Jeju, the southern island of Korea. from the south.

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

North Korea could respond to the new exercise with more missile tests. The North Korean Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the redeployment of the aircraft carrier’s battle group “poses a serious threat to the stability of the situation on and around the Korean peninsula.”

North Korea’s record rate of weapons testing this year aims to expand its arsenal so that it can credibly threaten America’s continental and regional allies with nuclear weapons and thus with the United States as a recognized nuclear state. able to trade from a position of strength. Its two ballistic missile launches on Thursday were the North’s sixth weapons launch in less than two weeks.

Observers said the North Korean medium-range missile tested on Tuesday was similar to the Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the US Pacific region of Guam. Other recently launched missiles are short-range weapons that target South Korea.

North Korea is poised to conduct its first nuclear test in five years and is preparing to test a new liquid fuel ICBM and a submarine-launched ballistic missile, as part of the country’s national defense policy. South Korea. Minister Heo Tae-kyun told lawmakers earlier this week.

On Friday, Heo held a three-way video call with his American and Japanese counterparts to discuss North Korea’s recent missile tests. The South Korean Ministry of Defense said in a statement that it stressed that security cooperation between the three countries would be strengthened if North Korea continued its provocation.

On Thursday, the three countries’ navies conducted a joint one-day exercise off the east coast of the Korean peninsula to strengthen their capabilities to find, track and intercept North Korean ballistic missiles. Last week he conducted an anti-submarine drill involving Reagan in the area.

North Korea also shot down 12 fighter jets tens of kilometers from the inter-Korean border, in response to which the South fired 30 military jets. There was no confrontation.

The South Korean army said eight North Korean fighters and four bombers carried out an air-to-ground artillery drill. The Yonhap News Agency reported that such an exercise near the border would likely be North Korea’s largest warship mobilization.

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