SEOUL/NEW YORK — The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is redeploying near the Korean Peninsula, South Korea’s military said Wednesday, in a show of might aimed at deterring any further North Korean activity one day after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile over Japan.
The nuclear-powered carrier and its strike group recently left the Sea of Japan after joint exercises with the South Korean navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force late last month.
The “very rare” redeployment aims to demonstrate the “resolve of the South Korea-U.S. alliance to respond sternly to any North Korean provocations,” Seoul said in a statement.
Another round of trilateral exercises is slated to start as early as Thursday, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
The Ronald Reagan, based at Yokosuka in Japan, is the core of U.S. naval operations in East Asia. It has a complement of more than 60 planes, including versatile F/A-18 fighter jets and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, and is in a strike group with cruisers and guided-missile destroyers.
American and South Korean forces fired four surface-to-surface tactical missiles into the Sea of Japan early Wednesday morning, following joint exercises Tuesday that included a precision bombing drill against a virtual target.
Many countries are concerned that North Korea might engage in escalation by conducting a seventh nuclear test or firing an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The United Nations Security Council holds an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon New York time about Pyongyang’s latest missile launch, at the request of three permanent Security Council members — the U.S., U.K. and France — plus Albania, Norway and Ireland.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called the launch a “reckless act” and expressed “serious concern that [North Korea] has again disregarded any consideration for international flight or maritime safety.”
In the past, the Security Council has responded to North Korean provocations with unanimous sanctions resolutions, including a cap on oil exports to the country in September 2017 after a flurry of missile and nuclear tests.
But the current dysfunction within the council threatens to stymie an effective response, as the war in Ukraine widens the divide between the U.S. and Europe on one side and China and Russia on the other.
Beijing and Moscow in May vetoed an American proposal of sanctions against Pyongyang for the first time. The upcoming meeting also appears unlikely to produce agreement on a resolution condemning Pyongyang or imposing new sanctions.
The redeployment of the Ronald Reagan suggests that Washington sees limits on the ability of existing international frameworks to curb North Korea.
Pyongyang has steadily improved its missile technology while international attention focuses on Ukraine and Taiwan. While North Korea formerly announced successful launches the following day, media sources there have remained silent about the country’s 10 missile tests since May.