The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier made a port call in South Korea on Wednesday amid warnings from military leaders that their upcoming joint war games may be disrupted by a strike from North Korea.
General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, also reassured the alliance of the White House’s commitment to their partnership, as the South brings in a new government following the ouster of now-ex-President Park Geun-hye.
Seoul announced Wednesday that it will follow constitutional guidelines and hold a new election May 9.
After speaking with his South Korean counterpart General Lee Sun-jin, Dunford said in a statement, "The [South Korea]-US Alliance is ironclad, and the combined defense posture is firm regardless of the political situation in Korea."
He added that the military chiefs "recognized the possibility that North Korea could conduct provocative actions during the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise, or in connection with North Korean major political events in April."
Pyongyang has decried the military drills as a kind of invasion rehearsal and the Korean Central News Agency warned that if the Nimitz-class carrier infringed "on the DPRK's [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] sovereignty and dignity even a bit, its army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater," pointing out that, "On March 11 alone, many enemy carrier-based aircraft flew along a course near territorial air and waters of the DPRK to stage drills of dropping bombs and making surprise attacks on the ground targets of its army."
Though the North makes similar comments whenever these joint drills are held, the recent increase of nuclear activity of ballistic missile launches makes the rhetoric more concerning.
The Carl Vinson, with its 55,000 crewmembers, has been powering through the waters of South Korea as a part of the exercises, collectively called Foal Eagle. On Wednesday the USS Wayne E. Meyer destroyer pulled into Busan, South Korea, as well.
Rear Admiral James Kilby, commander of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, told Busan reporters that Washington understands that threats to Seoul are "increasing with every act of aggression” from the North and stressed the ship’s presence "is a clear signal of our commitment to the Republic of Korea."
US Forces Korea Army General Brooks said in a statement on Monday that the "Carl Vinson’s presence is another tangible example of how the ROK – US Alliance continues to enhance interoperability and key capabilities to ensure security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the region," according to USNI.