US warships and South Korean warships start a new round of naval drills amid tensions
Two-day drills that also involved South Korean and US destroyers were being held in international waters just off the east coast of the peninsula.
On Friday, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan began a new round in naval drills with South Korean warships. This comes a day after North Korea fired further ballistic missiles and flew warplanes to increase tensions with its neighbors.
After North Korea launched a nuclear-capable ballistic missile over Japan earlier this week, the Reagan and its battle force returned to the waters around the Korean Peninsula. This was in response to North Korea’s earlier training with South Korean navy vessels. North Korea considers US-South Korean military drills a way to invade its country.
Two-day drills that also involved South Korean and US destroyers were being held in international waters just off the east coast of the peninsula. The drills will be used to strengthen the defense capabilities of allies and will include training to escort South Korea’s Reagan southeast of Jeju.
The statement stated that “We will continue strengthening our firm operational capabilities, and ready to respond to any provocations from North Korea,”
North Korea could respond to the new drills by conducting more missile tests. According to the North’s Foreign Ministry, the redeployment of the carrier group poses a “serious threat to the stability and security of the situation on Korea Peninsula and its environs.”
North Korea’s record-breaking pace of weapon testing this year is meant to increase its arsenal and threaten the US mainland, regional allies, and then enter into negotiations with the US. The North’s sixth round of weapon firings was completed on Thursday with its two ballistic missile launches. This took place in less than two months.
According to observers, the intermediate-range missile North Korea tested Tuesday was most likely a Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching Guam in the Pacific. Short-range weapons targeting South Korea were also launched in recent missile launches.
North Korea is ready for its first nuclear test after five years. Heo Taekeun, South Korea’s deputy minister of national defence policy, stated earlier this week that the country is preparing to test a liquid-fueled intercontinental missile and a submarine launched ballistic missile.
Heo held trilateral video conferences with his Japanese and US counterparts on Friday to discuss the recent missile tests by North Korea. The South Korean Defense Ministry stated in a statement that they stressed the importance of security cooperation between the three countries if North Korea continues to provoke.
The three nations’ naval destroyers conducted joint drills on Thursday off the east coast of the peninsula to improve their ability to track, intercept, and search for North Korean ballistic missiles. They held an anti-submarines exercise in the region last week.
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