A U.S. aircraft carrier will arrive in South Korea later this week in preparation for large-scale joint naval exercises in an apparent show of strength amid growing concerns of nuclear weapon testing by North Korea following its declaration of carrying out preemptive nuclear strikes.
“By conducting combined drills, the navies of the two countries plan to strengthen their military readiness and demonstrate the firm resolve of the South Korea-U.S. alliance for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” a report, quoting a statement by the South Korean navy, said.
According to reports, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and other American vessels of the Carrier Strike Group 5 will make a port stop at Busan in southeastern Korea.
North Korea had recently passed a law enshrining the right to use preemptive nuclear strikes to protect itself. Under the law, passed by the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, North Korea said it will carry out a preventive nuclear strike “automatically” and “immediately to destroy hostile forces,” when a foreign country poses an imminent threat to the country and its dictator Kim Jong-un.
“There is absolutely no such thing as giving up nuclear weapons first, and there is no denuclearization and no negotiation,” Kim Jong-un said in a speech at his country’s parliament.
Terming North Korea’s first-use nuclear doctrine as “escalatory and destabilizing,” the U.S., along with South Korea, released a joint statement saying the two sides were committed to continuing efforts to employ all elements of both countries’ national power to strengthen the Alliance deterrence posture.
“The U.S. reiterated its ironclad and unwavering commitment to draw on the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, missile defense, and other advanced non-nuclear capabilities, to provide extended deterrence for the ROK (South Korea),” the joint statement said. Meanwhile, Seoul warned North Korea that using its nuclear weapons would put it on a “path of self-destruction.”
These joint exercises come after Washington and Seoul pledged to step up their military cooperation following a May summit meeting in Seoul, after North Korea conducted 18 missile tests this year, compared to only four tests in 2020, and eight in 2021.
In May, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to target the U.S., and reports suggest that the country may be preparing to conduct a nuclear test “at any time,” with a report by the U.N. saying that the country has made preparations for the same. North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon since 2017.
With a new government in South Korea, Seoul has shifted to taking a harder line approach towards North Korea than the previous government. The new South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol is looking to expand military cooperation with the U.S. and has said he would hold talks with Kim Jong-Un only if there is a realistic prospect of achieving concrete results.
During his tenure, Former President Donald Trump engaged in direct talks with Kim Jong Un. However, with no efforts to continue the diplomatic process, the joint commitment to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula stalled, ending the hope of stopping North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.