NATIONAL

Carl Vinson enters Busan to join annual drills

By KH디지털2
  • Published : Mar 15, 2017 - 11:56
  • Updated : Mar 15, 2017 - 14:09

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier on Wednesday arrived at South Korea's southern port of Busan to participate in the ongoing joint exercises by Seoul and Washington in the latest show of force against North Korea, the US military said.

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is anchored at the port of Busan on March 15, 2017. (Yonhap)

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier plans to conduct bilateral exercises with forces from the South Korean Navy in the waters around the Korean Peninsula during the Foal Eagle field training exercise that runs through the end of April, the US Navy said in a press briefing held in the port city.

"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," said Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander of USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group 1.

He also said the port call is aimed at deterring increasing threats on the Korean Peninsula.

"I also understand that the threat has only increased with each senseless act of aggression (by North Korea). To be clear, our presence here today is a clear signal of our commitment to defend this nation and region," he said.

Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander of USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group 1 delivers a speech on its participation in the Foal Eagle exercise after making a port call in Busan on March 15, 2017. (Yonhap)

In the same conference, US Naval Forces Korea Commander Commodore Bradley Cooper dismissed speculation that the US has stepped up its drive to complete the deployment of an advanced missile defense system known as THAAD in South Korea by as early as April in line with the drills. 

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense deployment has nothing to do with the annual drill between the allies, he said, adding the system will be used for defense purposes only.

The aircraft carrier is the centerpiece of the 6,500-sailor Strike Group. It also includes two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser and Carrier Air Wing 2, which consists of 74 aircraft.

In the "routine periodic exercise," the two allies have enhanced their interoperability and combat capabilities through expert exchanges, gunnery exercises, and anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare drills, he said.

A day earlier, the US Navy invited dozens of reporters to the aircraft carrier to demonstrate flight operations in seas east of the Korean Peninsula.

In a short briefing on the mainstay naval ship's participation in the annual exercise, Kilby delivered a similar message.

The two navies will be doing a lot of exercises that they planned for the last six months to work together "correctly" as they are working for "one purpose," he said, adding that the purpose of the exercise is to reinforce the alliance between the navies.

Seoul and Washington kicked off their annual joint drills -- Key Resolve and Foal Eagle -- in March. The two-week Key Resolve started Monday, while Foal Eagle runs through the end of April.

Pyongyang has long denounced the exercises as rehearsals for an invasion despite Washington's assurance that they are defensive in nature. (Yonhap)