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The US and South Korea staged their first joint military drills involving an American aircraft carrier in more than four years – while North Korea reportedly prepares for another nuclear test, Seoul’s military confirmed Saturday.
The three-day exercises took place from Thursday through Saturday along international waters off the Japanese island of Okinawa, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The drills included air defense and maritime-interception operations.
The USS Ronald Reagan, a 100,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam were among the warships participating in the drills.
South Korea also sent the 14,500-ton Marado amphibious landing ship, the 7,600-ton Sejong the Great destroyer and other vessels.
It was both allies’ first joint drills since South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol assumed office last month, and their first exercises involving an aircraft carrier since November 2017.
The drills come as U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials have repeatedly warned North Korea could soon conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.
And it came weeks after President Biden and the South Korean leader vowed to upgrade defense exercises and explore how the US and its ally against the rogue regime to the north could respond to North Korean sabre-rattling.
“The exercise consolidated the two countries’ determination to sternly respond to any North Korean provocations, while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to provide extended deterrence,” the JCS said in a statement.
On Friday, Sung Kim, who is President Biden’s envoy for North Korea, said the US is “preparing for all contingencies” in coordination with South Korea and Japan as it monitors North Korean activity.