US, South Korea joint military drills begin in Western Pacific

Posted November 12, 2017

South Korean naval vessels will join the U.S.in a rare military drill that will feature three US aircraft carriers in the western Pacific later this week.

Their navies plan to begin the four-day drill, which will involve the three flattops - USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt - in the East Sea on Saturday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

The governments should also tell North Korea that should it "instead take a step in the right direction", the U.S., South Korea and the rest of the worldwide community are "ready to present a brighter future".

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Three nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and 11 Aegis ships from the U.S. Navy, as well as seven warships - including two Aegis destroyers - will be mobilized in the drills staged in the Korean Theater of Operations (KTO). The US 7th Fleet did not mention where in the western Pacific the three aircraft carriers would be conducting their exercises.

The countries will practice air operations, air artillery strikes and aircraft carrier escorts, Reuters reported.

Nuclear-armed North Korea regularly denounces such military drills as rehearsals for invasion and sometimes conducts its own military manoeuvres or missile tests in response.

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A flurry of missile tests from North Korea this year have raised the likelihood of South Korea using the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system - something China has vehemently opposed.

The exercises come on the heels of Trump's visits to Seoul and Beijing this week, which were dominated by the question of how to counter Pyongyang's nuclear weapons threat.

"The U.S. efforts to expand its military influence in Asia-Pacific and the movement of big neighboring powers to contain it escalate the military tension and increase arms race in the region with each passing day", it said. It also flew two new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.

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