SEOUL – The United States Navy confirmed on Friday that it has sent its USS Ronald Reagan nuclear aircraft carrier to waters near the Korean Peninsula, where the USS Carl Vinson is already stationed, amid heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
In a brief statement, the US Pacific Command (USPACOM) confirmed that Ronald Reagan, whose base port is Yokosuka on the east coast of Japan, has begun its regular spring patrol around the western Pacific Ocean.
Although USPACOM stressed that the two vessels are not close to each other despite being in the Western Pacific, it is unusual for the US to deploy two of its nuclear-powered carriers in a single region of operations.
The deployment underlines the Pentagon’s concerns over North Korea, which on Sunday successfully launched a medium-range missile in a sign of its progress in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching US territory.
Although the US has not clarified the reason for its decision, Carl Vinson – sent to the Sea of Japan last month as a warning to North Korea for its repeated weapons tests – has opted to stay in the area following the latest missile launch.
A spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Defense told EFE that Carl Vinson is currently conducting maneuvers with the South Korean navy in the Sea of Japan.
A government source also told Yonhap news agency about the possibility of both carriers conducting joint maneuvers with South Korean troops in early June, something that the Seoul Defense Ministry did not confirm.
The source also said that Ronald Reagan will probably enter waters off the Sea of Japan in the next 10 days.
Pyongyang’s repeated arms tests have led to the hardening of rhetoric from Washington following Donald Trump’s election as US president.
His administration has hinted at the possibility of pre-emptive strikes if the regime of Kim Jong-un does not abandon its nuclear and missile program.