US sends USS Ronald Reagan to Korean peninsula in apparent show of force aimed at Kim Jong-un

The US is sending an aircraft carrier to South Korea this week to participate in its first joint training with Seoul’s warships in five years, in what is perceived to be a show of force against North Korea leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korean navy officials said on Monday that the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and its battle group will join the southeastern South Korean naval base on Friday for a combined training aimed at strengthening the military readiness of both the allies.

The military training between Seoul and Washington is also aimed to show “the firm resolve by the Korea-US alliance for the sake of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the navy said.

Officials in the US and South Korea said the upcoming deployment of the Reagan Carrier Strike Group in the region was a clear demonstration of the US security commitment, the joint statement added.

This is the first such joint drill with participation from a US aircraft carrier near the Korean peninsula in five years.

In 2017, the US sent three aircraft carriers including the Reagan for naval drills with South Korea after North Korea fired missiles in a test launch, the South Korean defence ministry said.

The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group was initially supposed to come to Seoul on Thursday, but extreme weather conditions caused by a typhoon delayed its arrival to Friday, the South Korean navy said.

This also comes at a time North Korea has demonstrated its willingness to resort to nuclear weapons by clearing a new law which authorises preemptive use of nuclear weapons in certain conditions.

Passing the law earlier this month, Mr Kim said the move made North Korea’s nuclear status “irreversible” and barred denuclearisation talks, state media reported.

“The utmost significance of legislating nuclear weapons policy is to draw an irretrievable line so that there can be no bargaining over our nuclear weapons,” state media quoted Mr Kim as telling the assembly.

North Korea will never surrender the weapons even if the country faced 100 years of sanctions, said the hermit kingdom’s leader.

In response, senior US and South Korean officials held a meeting in Washington last week and said “any (North Korean) nuclear attack would be met with an overwhelming and decisive response”.

The US pointed to “its ironclad and unwavering commitment to draw on the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear (one)” to provide extended deterrence to South Korea.

Pyongyang’s move sparked concern among the international community, with the US reiterating it was willing to initiate talks on denuclearisation and sanctions with North Korea without any hostility or preconditions.

Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the UN, said he was “deeply concerned” by the new law and reiterated calls for Pyongyang to return to denuclearisation talks, something experts have said the country will not do anytime soon, as was seen by the passing of the law by its rubber-stamp parliament.

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