USS Nimitz arrives for naval drills in South Korea

March 28, 2023
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz arrives to a welcome ceremony at Busan, South Korea, Tuesday.
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz arrives to a welcome ceremony at Busan, South Korea, Tuesday.

BUSAN — South Korea, the United States and Japan will soon hold a trilateral maritime exercise, involving an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, a US Navy official said Tuesday.

Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, unveiled the plan during a press meeting aboard the USS Nimitz carrier, which arrived in the southeastern city of Busan earlier in the day, in a show of the US’s naval might against North Korean threats.

“We are scheduled to do a trilateral exercise with the JMSDF and ROK Navy after we pull out of Busan,” he said, calling the exercise “very important for interoperability.”

The JMSDF and ROK refer to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the South’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

The three-way exercise is expected to take place early next week as the carrier is likely to depart from Busan this weekend, according to an informed source who requested anonymity.

The three countries previously held trilateral maritime drills, involving the USS Ronald Reagan carrier, in September and October last year.

The Navy carrier strike group steamed into South Korea’s largest port Tuesday for a joint exercise a day after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles.

Roughly 7,000 US sailors and Marines from Carrier Strike Group 11 and its flagship, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, docked at Busan for an ongoing, large-scale drill by US and South Korean naval forces.

The two-week Ssangyong Exercise in and around the Korean Peninsula is the largest US-South Korean maritime drill in five years. Over 30 ships and 70 aircraft, and roughly 50 amphibious assault vessels, are scheduled to participate in the exercise until Monday, according to South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense.

The scheduled exercise is taking place in international waters in a “professionally safe” manner, the strike group commander, Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, told reporters on the Nimitz flight deck.

Two weeks ago, spokesman Wang Wenbin of China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Beijing was “gravely concerned” about the exercise.

“The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is highly complex and sensitive,” Wang said at a March 14 news conference in Beijing. “All parties concerned should remain restrained and do more things that are conducive to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, not otherwise.”

Tensions on the peninsula are at a “critical point,” North Korea’s state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Tuesday. It said the US is “undisguised in their attempt of aggression” against North Korea.

“All the demonstrative military exercises of the enemy clearly show that they are military actions of preemptive attack, which can no longer be overlooked as they are conducted ...,” Rodong Sinmun reported.

North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles Monday, its eighth day of testing this year. The US does “not seek to contain China” nor a conflict with North Korea, but is “not going to be bullied,” Sweeney said.

“We are not going to be coerced and we are going to stay here, fly and operate under international norms to [assure] all our allies and partners,” Sweeney said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Two days before arriving, the Nimitz and destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Decatur conducted anti-submarine and air defense drills with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, according to a Navy news release.

On Monday, the Nimitz, Meyer and Decatur joined two South Korean destroyers off the southern South Korean island of Jeju, according to a Ministry of National Defense news release. — Agencies

March 28, 2023
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