U.S. deploys supercarrier to the region

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U.S. deploys supercarrier to the region

The U.S. Navy deployed its nuclear-powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis to the Western Pacific seas as part of its scheduled deployment, a move that was seen in Seoul as an indication that Washington is bolstering its military presence in the region following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test.

The U.S. Navy’s website on Saturday revealed that the 97,000 ton aircraft carrier had left its home port of Bremerton, Washington, on Friday for the Western Pacific area of operations. It did not elaborate further.

A South Korean Navy official said Monday that the Western Pacific region described by the U.S. Navy falls under the command of the United States Seventh Fleet that oversees Asia, including defense of South Korea.

“Currently, the USS Ronald Reagan is deployed at the Yokosuka base in Japan; it’s rare for the [United States] to deploy an additional aircraft carrier in this region,” the official added.

The USS Ronald Reagan, the U.S Navy’s forward-deployed Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, was deployed to the 7th Fleet last year, replacing the USS George Washington.

In response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo agreed over the phone to the deployment of the U.S. military’s strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula.

The Stennis can be considered a representative strategic asset of the United States.

Also called the CVN-74, the vessel, named after U.S. Senator John Cornelius Stennis of Mississippi, known as the “father of America’s modern Navy,” was commissioned in December 1995.

“After North Korea’s nuclear test in February 2009 and long-range missile launch, the USS Stennis came to Korea’s East Sea,” another South Korean military official said. “Following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, military tensions have risen in Northeast Asia,” the official continued.

The vessel is the flagship of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, which provides a forward deployed force that can include up to 10 ships and 70 aircraft.

“Deploying is the culmination of our training,” Capt. Mike Wettlaufer, the USSR Stennis’ commanding officer, was quoted as saying on the official Facebook page of the CVN-74. “This crew has attacked every challenge thrown their way, and as we leave to answer our nation’s call, I couldn’t be any prouder of them. We are ready.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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