The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its battle group ships have arrived in the southern port city of Pusan.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, promised to intensify joint military exercises with the Americans after his predecessor’s diplomacy with North Korea failed.
“The deployment of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in Pusan shows the strength of the South Korean-US alliance,” a South Korean Defense Ministry official told AFP.
The deployment is aimed at “deterring North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the official added.
Pyongyang has carried out a record string of weapons tests this year and revised its laws on nuclear capabilities earlier this month, enshrining the “first strike” doctrine and vowing never to give up its nuclear weapons.
The US Navy said the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was escorted to South Korea by two ships of its battle group, the cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the destroyer USS Barry.
They will take part in joint exercises off South Korea’s eastern coast this month, Yonhap news agency reported. The USS Annapolis, a nuclear-powered submarine, is also expected to participate in the exercise, the report said.
The US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea amid warnings by Korean and American officials in recent months that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was preparing to carry out another nuclear test, his seventh since 2006.
Last month, the US and South Korea held their largest joint military exercise since 2018. Prior to this, large-scale exercises were not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic and diplomatic attempts to establish contact with Pyongyang.