South Korea, US begin joint exercises with aircraft carrier
The United States and South Korea on Friday began another round of joint military drills, this time involving a U.S. aircraft carrier in the waters east of the Korean peninsula, Seoul’s military announced.
The exercises come at a time of heightened tensions in the region after North Korea conducted six missile launches in less than two weeks, the most recent on Thursday, when it also flew fighter jets near the border with the South in an apparent bombing drill.
The U.S. military and South Korean forces also held joint missile drills in response to North Korea launching an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan.
“We will continue to strengthen our operational capabilities and readiness to respond to any provocations by North Korea through joint drills with … the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Top defense officials from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo also spoke on Friday and condemned the latest launches from Pyongyang, which they stressed threaten the region’s security, the ministry said.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command head Adm. John Aquilino also spoke with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup, where he said that his forces would support moves to prevent and respond to North Korean threats — including preemptive strikes if needed, the ministry said in another statement.
Lee also met with senior officials to emphasize “the need to deliver a clear message that nuclear and missile development will only create a more difficult situation for North Korea,” South Korea’s defense ministry said.
North Korea, meanwhile, suggested its latest launch was in response to the U.S. moving its Navy strike group near its waters.