An American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is making a port call in the Republic of Korea’s southern city of Busan. The massive ship took part in joint naval exercises, and is seen as a show-of-force amid the tensions over Pyongyang’s recent missile and nuclear weapons testing.
CGTN’s Jack Barton got a first-hand look at warship’s capabilities.
Having spent a week conducting combat drills with South Korea’s navy, the United States’ Reagan Carrier Strike Group headed to the southern Korean port of Busan. At its heart is the USS Ronald Reagan, docking with a large portion of its aerial firepower on show.
“We have about 70 aircraft on board, a combination of strike fighter aircraft like the F-18 and variants,” according to Navy spokesperson David Levy. “Behind us we have the E2D early warning aircraft, as well as two types of helicopter squadrons on board”.
At 100,000 tons and with a crew of about 5,000, the nuclear powered aircraft carrier is the largest American warship in Asia.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea calls the Reagan, and the accompanying carrier group, a provocation.
Pyongyang says its own nuclear and missile programs are a response to what it sees as the U.S. and South Korea constantly practicing for an alleged invasion.
Seoul and Washington argue the exercises are a purely defensive routine happening since the 1950s.
“We have been conducting these routinely scheduled, transparent exercises for the entire duration of that alliance,” Rear Admiral Marc Dalton said. “The purpose of those exercises it to enable the combined defense of South Korea, and have been throughout.”
South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in recently struck an agreement with U.S. President Donald Trump to make the deployment of assets – like the Ronald Reagan as well as strategic bombers – more routine.
This move is likely to further anger the DPRK, which has conducted more missile tests under Kim Jong-un that under his father and grandfather combined. An unprecedented spate of weapons tests by Pyongyang, which include two missiles that flew over Japan and a sixth nuclear test, have further raised tensions in East Asia.