The US is moving a second aircraft carrier to the Korean Peninsula to take part in training exercises days after North Korea conducted a “successful” ballistic missile test.
The nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan departed for the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday after undergoing a maintenance period and sea trials in its base in Japan, CNN reported.
The Nimitz-class carrier will join the USS Carl Vinson in the region for dual training exercises in a show of force amid rising tensions with Pyongyang.
Together the two ships have a total of 90 F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters.
“Coming out of a long in-port maintenance period we have to ensure that Ronald Reagan and the remainder of the strike group are integrated properly as we move forward,” Rear Adm. Charles Williams said in a press release.
Once in the region, the Reagan will conduct a range of exercises but primarily focus on certifying its ability to safely launch and recover aircraft, the said.
On Sunday, North Korea test-launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile that many experts believe could be its most advanced yet. The missile flew some 700km (435 miles), reaching an altitude of 2,000km and landing in the sea west of Japan.
The long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) is launched during a test in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. (Photos by Reuters)
After the test, Pyongyang warned the “US mainland and Pacific operations” are within range of North Korean missiles.
American experts also said the latest missile, which reportedly can carry a nuclear warhead, could reach the US state of Hawaii if it was fired on a normal trajectory.
President Donald Trump warned at the time that there was a chance for a “major conflict with North Korea,” but said, “We’d love to solve things diplomatically.”
Tensions have rapidly escalated on the Korean Peninsula since Trump said in early April he would act “unilaterally” against Pyongyang.
However, Trump later said he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under “the right circumstances.”
The North has repeatedly said it would not abandon its missile and nuclear programs unless the US ended its hostility toward the country.