(ATTN: UPDATES with carrier's arrival in headline, lead, 2nd para; CHANGES photo)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- An imposing U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for its first combined drills with the South Korean Navy near the peninsula in five years, as the allies are striving to reinforce deterrence against evolving North Korean military threats.
The nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan docked at ROK Fleet Command in Busan, 390 kilometers south of Seoul, amid worries about the possibility of the North staging a nuclear test or other provocations. ROK stands for South Korea's official name, Republic of Korea.
The arrival of the carrier, a centerpiece of America's naval might, came after Presidents Yoon Suk-yeol and Joe Biden reaffirmed their commitment to deploy U.S. strategic assets in a "timely and coordinated manner as necessary" during their summit in Seoul in May.
"The deployment of the carrier here is designed to demonstrate the robustness of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, and deter North Korea's nuclear and missile threats," a Seoul official told Yonhap News Agency on condition of anonymity.
Its carrier strike group consists of three vessels -- the Nimitz-class carrier; USS Chancellorsville, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser; and USS Barry, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.
The three warships plan to join the combined drills off South Korea's east coast later this month. The nuclear-powered USS Annapolis submarine is also expected to take part.
Commissioned in July 2003, the 97,000-ton, 333-meter-long Ronald Reagan is America's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier. Since 2015, the supercarrier has been based in the Japanese city of Yokosuka, which is home to the U.S. 7th Fleet.
Ronald Reagan can carry over 5,000 sailors as well as formidable on-board assets, including F/A-18E Super Hornets, and E-2D Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft.
The strike group sails with 33 partners and allies for bilateral or multilateral maritime exercises and operations, according to the U.S. Navy. In 2021, the carrier was deployed to support the withdrawal of U.S. troops and others from Afghanistan.