A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group has concluded several days of drills alongside Japan and South Korean warships that drew heavy protest from an increasingly bellicose North Korea.
The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group redeployed to waters east of the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday after Pyongyang lobbed a suspected nuclear-capable intermediate-range ballistic missile 2,800 miles over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean for the first time since 2017.
North Korea fired additional short-range ballistic missiles into the waters off its east coast on Thursday and again on Sunday in protest over the joint naval drills.
Operating alongside Japanese and South Korean destroyers, ships attached to the U.S. strike group conducted maritime security and flight operations and maritime strike exercises in the area aimed at “demonstrating the shared commitment to upholding the rules-based international order,” said the commander of the task force responsible for U.S. strike groups operating in the Navy’s 7th Fleet area of operations.
“Our commitment to regional security and the defense of our allies and partners is demonstrated by our flexibility and adaptability to move this strike group to where it is needed,” said Task Force 70 Commander, Rear Adm. Michael Donnelly.
The launches add to the sharp uptick in North Korea’s missile tests this year. South Korean officials have warned that Pyongyang is prepared to test newly developed intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles and may be preparing to conduct an underground nuclear test for the first time since 2017.
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President Biden this week pledged to coordinate an “immediate and longer-term” response alongside Japan and South Korea aimed at limiting North Korea’s “ability to support its unlawful ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.”
Adm. Donnelly the U.S. maintains “an inherent capability to respond to any challenge, and we will continue to train and operate alongside our allies and partners and uphold the rules-based international order wherever we fly, sail, and operate.”