Friday, September 30, 2022

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US aircraft carriers en route to South Korea for joint exercises

Military exercises between the US and South Korea take place after North Korea declared its nuclear program “irreversible”.

A United States aircraft carrier will visit South Korea for the first time since 2018 for joint military exercises later this week amid growing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear stance.

The South Korean Navy said Monday that the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier leading a strike force of smaller ships, will arrive in the port city of Busan on Friday.

“By conducting combined exercises, the navies of the two countries plan to strengthen their military readiness and demonstrate the South Korean-US alliance’s firm determination for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” the South Korean navy said in a statement.

Earlier this month, North Korea passed legislation allowing it to conduct a pre-emptive nuclear attack and declaring its status as a nuclear-armed state “irreversible”.

The country has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year and launched dozens of ballistic missiles, including the first ICBM in five years.

Last week, the US and South Korean governments released a joint statement expressing concern over what they described as “escalating and destabilizing messages surrounding North Korea’s use of nuclear weapons.”

“The two sides pledged to continue efforts to use all elements of the national power of both countries to strengthen the alliance’s deterrence posture,” the statement said.

“The United States reiterated its ironclad and unwavering commitment to draw on the full breadth of its military capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, anti-missile and other advanced non-nuclear capabilities, to provide the ROK with an enhanced deterrent [the Republic of Korea/South Korea].”

South Korea is not nuclear-armed, but it falls under Washington’s so-called “nuclear umbrella” — a US pledge to defend allies by all means in the event of a nuclear attack.

Last month, the US and South Korea launched their largest conventional joint military exercise in years.

“The maintenance of peace on the Korean peninsula is based on our airtight security situation,” South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said at the time.

Former US President Donald Trump held direct talks with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un during his tenure, but diplomacy between the two countries has stalled.

After the first meeting between Trump and Kim in 2018, the nations said in a joint statement that North Korea was committed “to working toward full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

But the promise was never followed by efforts to end the country’s nuclear weapons program.

North Korea conducted its first nuclear weapons test in 2006, violating an international ban on nuclear tests. Since then, the UN Security Council has unanimously passed numerous resolutions sanctioning the country for its nuclear program.

Pyongyang has denounced previous US military operations and joint exercises as war exercises and evidence of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.

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