South Korea and the United States will conduct a massive joint naval exercise involving three U.S. aircraft carriers off the eastern coast Saturday in an unprecedented show of force aimed at deterring North Korea.
It marks the first time for three U.S. aircraft carriers to conduct joint exercises with South Korea’s Navy. Mobilizing three aircraft carriers for a single exercise is also rare for the U.S. military as well. The last such exercise took place in 2007 in waters off the U.S. territory of Guam.
The three flattops — USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt — will sail one by one into the waters east of Korea for the four-day drill.
Also to be mobilized are 11 U.S. Aegis ships and seven South Korean warships, including two Aegis vessels.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the maneuvers are aimed at bolstering the South Korea-U.S. alliance’s policy of “extended deterrence” against the North’s nuclear and missile provocations.
The allies will also show off their readiness to mount a strong retaliation with overwhelming firepower in the event of an emergency, the JCS said.
The exercise takes place after the two countries agreed in their annual defense ministers’ talks to expand the rotational deployment of U.S. strategic military assets to the Korean Peninsula to better cope with North Korean provocations.