US redeploys aircraft carrier to Korea
The US military has stationed an aircraft carrier strike group off the coast of South Korea in retaliation for a recent missile launch by the North, redeploying the powerful naval unit just weeks after its first visit in several years.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff announced the move on Wednesday, saying that an American carrier strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan would soon return to the East Sea.
“The redeployment of the carrier strike group on the Korean peninsula is very unusual and demonstrates the resolute will of the [South Korean]-US alliance against successive North Korean provocations and threats,” Seoul’s military said, adding that it would continue “close cooperation” with the United States.
The US aircraft carrier and its support vessels – which visited South Korean waters last month in their first trip to the peninsula since 2018 – were sent in retaliation for a missile test by Pyongyang earlier this week. The trial saw munitions cross the East Sea all the way into Japanese airspace, prompting immediate condemnation from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo alike.
The DPRK responded to the deployment with yet another weapons test, firing off two short-range ballistic missiles early on Thursday, according to South Korean military officials. They said the launches originated from North Korea’s capital region and were carried out 22 minutes apart, with one projectile traveling 217 miles (350 kilometers) and the other 497 miles (800km). While they were fired toward Japan, the missiles did not reach the country’s exclusive economic zone.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry later slammed the return of the aircraft carrier as “a serious threat to the stability of the situation on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity,” adding that it strongly condemns any US-led effort to impose new sanctions through the United Nations.
The north has conducted a record number of missile launches this year, staging six in the last 14 days. It said Thursday’s test was a “just counteraction” after several rounds of joint military drills between the United States and South Korea in recent weeks, and has repeatedly condemned such exercises as rehearsals for an invasion.