The U.S. Navy is moving a second aircraft carrier to waters just off the Korean Peninsula as North Korea continues advancing its missile program.
The USS Ronald Reagan will join the USS Carl Vinson for joint drills offshore. The Ronald Reagan left its home port in Yokosuka, Japan for the Korean Peninsula Tuesday, defense officials told CNN. The carrier will sail to the East Sea/Sea of Japan, a U.S. military source located in South Korea told the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper.
The U.S. Navy dispatched the Carl Vinson to the area last month to boost American military presence in the region at a time when many anticipated a sixth North Korean nuclear test. The Nimitz-class carrier is expected to remain in the area until June, at which point it will likely be replaced by the Ronald Reagan.
“Coming out of a long in-port maintenance period, we have to ensure that Ronald Reagan and the remainder of the strike group are integrated properly as we move forward,” Rear Adm. Charles Williams said in a statement to the press. Once the Ronald Reagan reaches the intended destination, it will conduct readiness drills, focused primarily on its ability to safely launch and recover aircraft.
“Deploying the Reagan strike group off the Korean Peninsula would send a strong message that the Trump administration [is] taking the possible threat from North Korea very seriously,” Yoshihiro Makino, a correspondent for the Asahi Shimbun, wrote.
The move comes just days after North Korea launched its tenth missile of the year, a new Hwasong-12 medium long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile. Not only did the test mark a successful launch of a new intermediate-range missile, but it also appears that the North tested a re-entry vehicle. Observers suspect that North Korea’s missile program is advancing faster than expected, with some suggesting that the North could have a working intercontinental ballistic missile in just one year, not five.
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