Three US aircraft carrier strike groups will hold an exercise together in the Western Pacific in the coming days in a rare show of force, as President Donald Trump visits Asia with warnings about the nuclear threat from North Korea, US officials say.
It's the first time for the U.S.to operate three of its 11 carriers simultaneously in the area since 2007.
The drills on Saturday will begin during the final leg of Trump's five-nation Asia tour amid mounting tension with North Korea in the wake of Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs development. "As long as the USA and its followers continue their hostile acts against us, we will further bolster our nuclear, precious sword of justice", said a dispatch carried by the North Korean daily Rodong Sinmun shortly ahead of Trump's arrival. Kim has called Trump a "mentally deranged USA dotard".
The three carriers involved are the USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Nimitz.
Just days ahead of Trump's visit to Japan, the first stop on his Asia tour, the US sent two B-1B heavy bombers from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam for bilateral missions with South Korean Air Force fighter jets and Air Self-Defense Force warplanes.
"It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three", said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift.
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Trump also noted that the three US aircraft carriers "are appropriately positioned" near the Korean Peninsula.
Trump may also board one of the carriers in person to demonstrate the USA firepower and its regional security commitment.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on a trip late last month to South Korea, was at pains to stress that diplomacy was America's preferred course to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
"It's a message to China to do more to pressure the North", said Shim Beom-chul, a professor of defense and unification issues at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.
Kim was said to have examined it for a "long time" and warned the United States to cease its reckless actions, unless it wanted the North to follow through.
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