Ahead of Trump's Asian tour, which in addition to a trip to Beijing also includes a visit to the Korean Peninsula and perhaps a surprise visit to the DMZ, the US navy is bringing out the big guns, and has deployed a third nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Nimitz-class USS Theodore Roosevelt and its strike group which on October 23, to the Western Pacific Ocean amid increasing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea the US Navy announced in a statement.
On Monday, the carrier strike group entered the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet area, which is the Navy’s biggest forward-deployed fleet, with its area of operations stretching from the International Date Line to the India-Pakistan border, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.
The 100,000-ton warship and its strike group joins two other carriers located in the 7th Fleet area amid fears of war with North Korea: in addition, the U.S. Navy announced that the USS Nimitz strike group consisting of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Howard, USS Shoup, USS Pinckney, USS Kidd, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton returned to the 7th Fleet area of operations on October 25 following a deployment to the Persian Gulf.
While it is unclear if the final rendezvous of the three ships is North Korea, it is still largely unprecedented to allocate three aircraft carriers in the region at one time, and is a huge gathering of US sea power according to naval experts. Ultimately, the USS Theodore Roosevelt is expected to make its way to the Persian Gulf to replace the USS Nimitz. The U.S. Navy has not announced any specific missions for the two carriers.
According to the Diplomat, the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, operating out of Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture and currently the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed carrier strike group in the Asia-Pacific region, recently completed a major naval exercise in the waters off the Korean Peninsula.
The USS Ronald Reagan is currently anchored off the port of Busan. Republic of Korea (ROK) Army General Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and the commanding officer of U.S. Forces Korea General Vincent Brooks met aboard the carrier on October 24 to discuss ongoing tension on the Korean Peninsula, according to Yonhap news agency.
“Amid an unprecedentedly grave security situation, the deployment of Ronald Reagan and its carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula and their joint exercise with South Korea is part of the increased deployment of U.S. strategic assets here. It must have been a strong warning to North Korea,” Jeong was quoted by the JCS as saying aboard the carrier.
In early June, two carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson, conducted joint naval exercises off the Korean peninsula in the Sea of Japan in response to North Korean ballistic missile tests. It was the first time that two U.S carriers were operating near the Korean Peninsula since the 1990s.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt will conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation, and port visits while deployed in the Asia-Pacific. “USS Theodore Roosevelt is prepared to carry out the full spectrum of possible missions, from humanitarian relief to combat operations,” said the ship's commanding officer Cpt Sardiello. “When a carrier leaves on deployment, we have to be ready for anything.”
For now, the region is surprisingly quiet: Kim has not fired missile or tested a nuclear bomb since September 15.