|The Nimitz-class super carrier USS Carl Vinson docks at a naval port in Busan, Wednesday. / Yonhap|
By Jun Ji-hye
The U.S. Navy’s Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson arrived in Busan, Wednesday, in the latest show of force against North Korea.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will conduct exercises with the ROK Navy in waters around the Korean Peninsula during the annual Foal Eagle exercise, which kicked off March 1 and will run through the end of April.
Accompanying the carrier was Carrier Air Wing 2 and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer.
Upon arrival, Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander of the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group 1, said at a news conference that the port call was aimed at better deterring increasing threats posed by the North.
“I understand that the threat has only increased with each senseless act of aggression,” he said. “To be clear, our presence here today is a clear signal of our commitment to defend this nation and region.”
In a press release, Kilby also said, “The training opportunities we have in this region are world-class and allow us to build upon our strong alliance with the Republic of Korea.”
The aircraft carrier, commissioned in 1982, is the centerpiece of the 7,500-sailor strike group. The 100,000-ton ship measures 333 meters in length and 77 meters in width. The vessel is capable of carrying some 90 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters including about 40 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters, 10 aerial refueling tankers and five E-2D Hawkeye early warning aircraft.
The strike group departed San Diego for a regularly scheduled deployment to the western Pacific, Jan. 5, the U.S. Navy said, adding that it also includes the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain, and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy.
The Carl Vinson has been involved in a number of notable events including Operation Iraqi Freedom. The ship also received huge attention in 2011 when the body of Osama bin Laden was buried at sea from its deck.
The U.S. Navy said it routinely works with ROK forces to maintain interoperability and a presence in the area.
“Exercises are conducted throughout the year including subject matter expert exchanges, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare drills, communication drills, air defense exercises, counter-mine planning and distinguished visitor embarkations,” it said in a release.
The Foal Eagle exercise is currently taking place in tandem with Key Resolve, a computer simulated command post exercise, which started March 13 for a two-week run.
The drills are being held amid heightened tension in the region after North Korea fired four ballistic missiles, March 6, 22 days after it launched a new intermediate-range ballistic missile.
There has also been speculation that Pyongyang will stage another major provocation such as a sixth nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile launch aimed at the U.S. mainland.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy stressed that the planned deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile battery system has nothing to do with the annual drills between the allies, adding the system will be used for defense purposes only.