US aircraft carrier to return to East Sea in response to N. Korean missiles after 4-year hiatus

Posted on : 2022-04-12 17:22 KST Modified on : 2022-04-12 17:22 KST
All eyes are on China’s response to the US vessel’s entrance into the East Sea
The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier passes through the Strait of Gibraltar on April 13, 2019. (from the US Navy website)
The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier passes through the Strait of Gibraltar on April 13, 2019. (from the US Navy website)

The nuclear-powered USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, currently located in the East China Sea, will reportedly be arriving in the East Sea on April 15 to conduct training with the South Korean Navy.

The US vessel's entry into the East Sea is the first in four years and five months since November 2017, when North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile and military tensions on the Korean Peninsula were high. Through this move, South Korea and the US are reportedly issuing a warning message to North Korea in the wake of its many missile tests this year as well as the growing possibility of a seventh nuclear weapon test.

According to the explanations of military officials on Monday, it is highly likely that the carrier will enter the international waters of the East Sea on April 15 and stay for around five days to conduct joint ROK-US naval exercises.

South Korea and the US are reportedly considering sending a warning message to North Korea by gathering key military commanders from the two countries on the carrier.

Initially, the US hoped for trilateral joint exercises with Korea and Japan, but this is unlikely to materialize due to South Korea's objections. Instead, the USS Abraham Lincoln may reportedly train with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force in the southern part of the East Sea and then conduct naval exercises with the South Korean Navy.

The US carrier's entry into the East Sea comes amidst the possibility of additional launches of an ICBM or even a nuclear test on April 15, which marks the Day of the Sun celebrating the birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung.

Military officials explain this as a measure to contain and put pressure on North Korea in case they launch an additional ICBM or conduct a nuclear test despite repeated warnings from the international community.

The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier (CVN-72) is 333 meters long and has a flight deck and hull width of 78.4 meters and 40.84 meters respectively, with more than 80 aircraft, including the F-35C and F/A-18 Super Hornets, and a carrier strike group including nuclear-powered submarines, Aegis destroyers and missile cruisers.

The USS Abraham Lincoln last entered the East Sea in November 2017, when North Korea conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests. At that time, the US sent three carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), to the East Sea to conduct joint training with South Korean naval vessels.

It will also be important to keep a close eye on how China responds in the coming weeks. China, which sees the US-ROK Navy drills as a show of force threatening its own country, has been conducting its own set of counter-response military exercises. Back in 2017, whenever US-South Korea or US-Japan joint exercises were taking place, China would also publicly disclose that it was holding its own large-scale exercises in the vicinity.

By Kwon Hyuk-chul, staff reporter

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