U.S. aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan arrived in South Korea on Friday before joint military exercises with South Korean ships begin. The military exercises are a show of strength. The aircraft carrier and ships from its accompanying strike force docked at a naval base in the southern port city of Busan.
The arrival marks the most significant deployment yet under a new push to have more US nuclear-capable “strategic assets” operate in the area to against North Korea.
North Korea conducted a record number of missile tests earlier this year. Seeing it as a potential threat, South Korea is now preparing for more joint exercises and other displays of military power. Talks to persuade North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons and missile development have failed. According to observers, Pyongyang seems to be preparing to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017. These military exercises will include a US aircraft carrier first time after 2017. Back at that time, the US sent three aircraft carriers, including the Reagan, in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests at the time, for naval exercises with South Korea.
Previous US military deployments and joint exercises were criticized by North Korea as preparations for war and evidence of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.
The visit is the first to South Korea by an American aircraft carrier since 2018. That year, the allies scaled back many of their joint military activities amid diplomatic efforts to engage with North Korea, but those talks have since stalled and Pyongyang this month unveiled an updated law codifying its right to conduct first-use nuclear strikes if necessary to protect itself.
According to the South Korean navy, its combined training with the Reagan battle group is intended to enhance the allies’ military readiness and to establish “the firm resolve by the Korea-US alliance for the sake of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula”.
USS Ronald Reagan’s docking at Busan’s port is significant as its timing occurred after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made Pyongyang’s parliament clear of his intentions to not abandon his nuclear weapons and the missiles. Un reasoned that the weapons would defend against “US hostility towards the North”.
In effect, North Korea passed a new law that embodied it as a nuclear power and authorised the preemptive use of nuclear weapons for varied situations where the country or its leadership comes under threat.
The allies also upheld their months-old prediction that North Korea is preparing to perform its first nuclear test since 2017, according to the ministry, and they discussed about “stern” responses.