Seoul: Amid fears of N Korea threat and North Korean troops prepare for their deadly winter drills, US warplanes practice landings in Japan Sea. Traditionally Kim Jong-un’s troops train from December to April. An F/A-18E Super Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron 115 launches from the flight deck and lands.
The exercises are the first time three US aircraft carrier strike groups have been assembled in the Sea of Japan since North Korea’s nuclear and missile program began in the 1990s. The Nimitz has also been joined by the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Theodore Roosevelt alongside a powerful fleet of other US and South Korean battleships.
The show of strength was intended to underline the US administration’s resolve to respond to North Korean provocation with possible military action as well as strengthened economic sanctions.
Admiral Gregory Harris, commander of the Nimitz’s strike group, said the training exercise sends a “powerful message” to North Korea. Admiral Harris, however, warned Kim Jong-un the US is ready to strike but would prefer a peaceful solution.
“But, that peaceful resolution is backed up by having the ability to do what is necessary should that become needed.” North Korea’s UN ambassador Ja Song-nam said the US carrier group’s presence has raised the threat of possible nuclear war.
In a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, North Korea warned the joint military exercise is creating “the worst ever situation prevailing in and around the Korean peninsula”.
The ambassador added: “The large-scale nuclear war exercises and blackmails, which the US stages for a whole year without a break in collaboration with its followers to stifle our republic, make one conclude that the option we have taken was the right one and we should go along the way to the last.”
While not elaborating on what “the last” might be, North Korea has tested several ballistic missiles and threatened to directly hit mainland US. South Korean military sources said they are monitoring activity in the North as troops prepare for winter drills.