May 29, 2017 09:47
The U.S. is sending another aircraft carrier strike force to the western Pacific region as a warning to North Korea to halt its missile and nuclear programs.
The USS Nimitz will join two other supercarriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan in a rare show of overwhelming force.
Sources told Voice of America on Friday that the Nimitz has completed 27 months of maintenance and test operations and will depart from a naval base in Bremerton in Washington state on Thursday. It will join other vessels in the carrier group in San Diego, California and head out to the western Pacific.
But the destination of the armada is unclear. Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported Saturday that the Nimitz was originally scheduled to be deployed to the Middle East but the destination was moved to the western Pacific for a six-month stint in order to respond to the "changing international political situation."
But a government source here said, "The Nimitz is passing through the western Pacific on its way to the Middle East and is not expected to reach waters off the Korean Peninsula."
The Vinson armada, which has been participating in naval drills with the South Korean Navy for a month since arriving in late April, is to pass the baton to the Regan strike group once the Nimitz group arrives in the western Pacific.
The Reagan sailed from a naval base in Yokoska, Japan earlier this month following four months of repairs. The Vinson and Regan are to conduct a dual-carrier training exercise on the East Sea early next month.
A diplomatic source said, "The Regan strike group will enter waters off the Korean Peninsula, not through the Korea Strait as usual but through the Tsugaru Strait" south of Japan's Hokkaido Island. "This will add more pressure on North Korea to halt its provocations."
Another source at the U.S.-South Korean Combined Forces Command said the Reagan armada will head to Australia after the exercise.
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