The United States and South Korea on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, started joint naval exercises that will involve three USA aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea.
The three carriers - USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt - plan to stage "coordinated operations" in global waters from Saturday till next Tuesday, according to the 7th Fleet.
The US Navy's announcement came just one day after US President Donald Trump revealed during his address to South Korea's National Assembly that "currently stationed in the vicinity of this peninsula are the three largest aircraft carriers in the world loaded to the maximum with magnificent F-35 and F-18 fighter jets".
U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift described the training as a "rare opportunity". A decade ago, Valiant Shield (VS) 2006 and 2007 had operated together off the coast of Guam, a US island territory in Micronesia, and focused on the ability to bring together forces from all the three strike groups in response to any regional situation.
From the South Korean side, two Aegis-equipped destroyers, one destroyer and four frigates will be mobilized for the joint exercises with the USA carriers, according to Yonhap.
The exercises come after the US and South Korea in their recent annual meeting on defensive policy agreed to expand the rotational deployment of strategic American military assets such as aircraft carriers, submarines and bombers to the peninsula.
The strike groups planned to conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers and other training, according to the Pacific Fleet.
The three flattops are the USS Ronald Reagan, Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet has a determined and steady presence throughout the region, conducting operations for more than 70 years now.
In a commentary released Saturday, the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea's official media, criticized the United States for "heightening military tension in the Asia-Pacific region".
Trump on Tuesday reiterated his goal to achieve what he called "peace through strength", warning the USA could use "the full range of our unmatched military capabilities" against Pyongyang.