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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The U.S. and South Korean navies will conduct joint maritime training next week with the participation of the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) announced on Friday.
Washington and Seoul will stage a combined Maritime Counter Special Operation Force (MCSOF) exercise, as well as a drill with U.S. Navy carrier strike groups (CSG), in waters off the east and west coast of South Korea.
The South Korean navy said the joint drills would be conducted between October 16 and 20 to “prepare for maritime provocations by North Korea and improve the ability to implement combined operations.”
The ROKN said the allies would seek to boost their capability to carry out concerted and combined operations through anti-submarine warfare (ASW), missile alert drills, maritime interdiction operations (MIOs), and air defense operations, among others.
Anti-aircraft and anti-ship guns will be fired during the exercise, the navy added.
“The training is a regular combined one to prepare for the threat of various maritime provocations by North Korea and to strengthen interoperability between the South and the U.S.,” Vice Admiral Jung Jin-sup, South Korean chief of naval operations, said in a written statement.
“Both the South Korean and U.S. Navy will firmly maintain a combined maritime defense posture with a strong will to immediately repulse any kind of enemy provocations to protect the Republic of Korea.”
The nuclear-powered supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and the South’s Sejong the Great-class guided-missile destroyers (KDX III) will participate in the maritime exercises, along with around 40 other vessels.
The U.S. and South Korean airforces will be also mobilized, including, among others, the land-based and long-range P-3C Orion Maritime patrol aircraft, the Lynx, Wildcat, UH-60, MH-60R and AH-64E helicopters, and the F-15k, FA-18, A-10 fighter jets.
The U.S. 7th Fleet on Thursday also announced that the ROK Navy and air force, in cooperation with the U.S.’s Seventh Fleet, Pacific Air Forces’ 7th Air Force, and Eighth Army will stage combined joint operations and exercises.
The fleet said that the Maritime Counter Special Operations Forces Exercise (MCSOFEX) would “promote communications, interoperability, and partnership in the 7th Fleet area of operations.”
Washington has in recent days attempted to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang by deploying strategic military assets to the Korean peninsula.
U.S. Naval Forces Korea on Friday announced that the USS Michigan (SSGN 727) Ohio-class guided-missile submarine had arrived in Busan.
The nuclear-powered submarine is one of the world’s largest, measuring 170 meters (560 feet) long and weighing more than 18,000 tons.
The vessel is carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles, used by the U.S. in the early April attack on Syria’s Shayrat airbase.
The U.S. Navy said the submarine is capable of “supporting Special Operation Forces (SOF) missions” and providing “unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities from a stealthy, clandestine platform.”
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine the USS Tucson (SSN 770) pulled into the U.S. Fleet Activities Chinhae base on October 7 “as part of its deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” the U.S. Navy said on Tuesday.
“Measuring more than 360 feet long, Tucson is one of the stealthiest and most advanced submarines in the world,” the navy said in a written statement.
“It is capable of supporting a multitude of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, surveillance, and reconnaissance.”
The U.S. marine forces said the nuclear-powered attack submarine is also equipped with twelve vertical launch tubes for Tomahawk cruise missiles and four torpedo tubes.
Two U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers flew over the Korean peninsula in a show of force on Tuesday night, conducting air-to-surface missile-firing drills over the Sea of Japan (known in Korea as the East Sea) and the Yellow Sea.
The U.S. Airforce said the drill was the “first time” that B-1B Lancer strategic bombers had conducted nighttime combined training with Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), file photo