US, South Korea joint military drills begin in Western Pacific

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The South Korean Navy has started a joint naval exercise with the USA involving three US nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to deliver a strong warning to North Korea.

The four-day joint exercise in the western Pacific involves three flattops - USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt - and seven South Korean warships including three destroyers, Seoul's defense ministry said.

Three U.S. aircraft carriers - USS Nimitz, USS Kitty Hawk, and USS John C. Stennis - steam in formation during a 2007 training exercise in the Western Pacific in this photo released by the 7th Fleet.

Xi urged South Korea to take a "responsible attitude on THAAD that stands the test of history", adding that it would be "new beginnings and a good start".

A total of seven South Korean navy vessels, including Aegis-equipped warships, will participate in the drill, the statement said, to accompany 14 USA naval warships.

The exercise aims to improve the two countries' ability to carry out cooperated operations through air operations, air artillery strikes and aircraft carrier escorts.

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Tensions have been running high since North Korea test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3 and flew ballistic missiles over Japan on August 29 and September 15.

Units assigned to the strike force will conduct coordinated operations in global waters to demonstrate the U.S. Navy's unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups as a coordinated strike force effort.

Yonhap said the three aircraft carriers will enter the KTO one by one as the strike groups sail with a certain distance from each other.

After President Donald Trump described his strategy on containing North Korea as "peace through strength", Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the North Korean ruling party's mouthpiece, published an article on Friday protesting the drills and vowing to "defend peace until the end".

"The U.S. efforts to expand its military influence in Asia-Pacific and the movement of big neighboring powers to contain it escalate the military tension and increase arms race in the region with each passing day", it said.

Trump on Tuesday reiterated his goal to achieve what he called "peace through strength", warning the US could use "the full range of our unmatched military capabilities" against Pyongyang.

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