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US, S Korea start drills in show of force against N Korea

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It\'s the first time USS Ronald Reagan and two other carriers have trained together in a decade

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12th-Nov-2017       
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AP, SEOUL :
The United States and South Korea on Saturday started joint naval exercises that will involve three U.S. aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea.
The four-day drills that began in waters off South Korea's eastern coast come as President Donald Trump continues a visit to Asia that has been dominated by discussions over the North Korean nuclear threat.
The battle groups of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Nimitz will successively enter the exercise area during the drills that run until Tuesday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The three carriers will be likely together in the drills around Monday, according to a South Korean military official, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules.
The exercises will also involve 11 U.S. Aegis ships and seven South Korean naval vessels, including two Aegis ships. The Aegis technology refers to missile tracking and guidance.
They will aim to enhance combined operation and aerial strike capabilities and also display "strong will and firm military readiness to defeat any provocation by North Korea with dominant force in the event of crisis," Seoul's military said in a statement.
It's the first time since a 2007 exercise near Guam that three U.S. carrier strike groups are operating together in the Western Pacific, according to the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet. The U.S. carriers will also participate in separate exercises with three Japanese destroyers on Sunday, according to Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The United States has been sending its strategic assets, also including long-range bombers, to the region more frequently for patrols or drills amid accelerating North Korean efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program.
In recent months, North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland with further development and has conducted its most powerful nuclear test. It also flew two new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.
Trump continued his tough talk against Pyongyang on Friday in a speech to business leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam, saying that the region's future "must not be held hostage to a dictator's twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail," referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump had also delivered a sharp warning to North Korea in a speech at South Korea's parliament on Wednesday, telling the country: "Do not underestimate us. And do not try us."
Japan said on Friday it would send one of its two big helicopter carriers, the largest warship in its fleet, along with two escorts to join three US aircraft carriers for exercises in waters close to the Korean peninsula.
The Japanese ships Ise, Inazuma and Makinami will sail with the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Sea of Japan and East China Sea on Sunday, Japan's Maritime Self Defence Force said in a press release.
It is the first time three American carriers have trained together in a decade. The show of force comes as US President Donald Trump meets with regional leaders at an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Vietnam.
Trump is on a 12-day tour of Asia and has already made stops in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing.
His administration has demanded that North Korea halt ballistic missile and nuclear tests. The naval exercise will be a potent reminder to Pyongyang of the US ability to rapidly mobilise military force.
The 100,000-ton US carriers carry a combined force of around 200 aircraft including F-18 strike fighters.
Another report adds: North Korea said on Saturday that U.S. President Donald Trump's first trip to Asia showed he was a "destroyer" and he had begged for war on the Korean peninsula.
"Trump, during his visit, laid bare his true nature as destroyer of world peace and stability and begged for a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula," the foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the state news agency.
Trump had warned North Korea on Wednesday not to underestimate the United States as he wrapped up his visit to South Korea.
The North Korean spokesman said nothing would deter Pyongyang from pursuing its nuclear weapons programme.
The United States Navy is set to conduct a massive multi-carrier naval exercise in the Western Pacific starting on November 11.
The massive wargames, which will include no less than three 100,000-ton Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and their accompanying strike groups, will run through November 14.

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