US in new Asian show of force
A United States aircraft carrier strike group has been deployed off the coast of Korea, and is reportedly set to take part in naval drills. It comes as US officials voice concerns that Pyongyang could conduct a fresh nuclear test.
The USS Abraham Lincoln strike group is now operating near the Sea of Japan – also known as the East Sea – an unnamed US government figure told Reuters on Monday, following reports in South Korean media that the ships had been deployed to international waters in the region in an “apparent show of force.”
The vessels will meet up with the Japanese navy for military exercises in the coming days “to reassure allies and partners in the region,” the US official continued, with Reuters noting that the move comes as Washington is “increasingly concerned that North Korea could carry out an underground nuclear test.”
The deployment marks the first time a carrier strike group has been sent to the region since 2017, when the USS Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt and Nimitz, as well as a number of destroyers and other support ships, were stationed near the East Sea amid a previous bout of tensions with Pyongyang.
Though the Pentagon has yet to confirm details of the mission publicly, sources cited by Yonhap News said the USS Abraham Lincoln is expected to remain in the area for “three to five days.”
The move comes after officials in South Korea visited Washington last week and requested the redeployment of a number of American strategic assets, including aircraft carriers, long-range nuclear bombers, and submarines.
Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned US drills in the region as provocative, specifically those held with South Korea, seeing the exercises as rehearsals for an invasion. Although it has not carried out a nuclear test since 2017, the North has conducted a series of long-range missile tests in recent months, including what it claimed to be an upgraded intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).