North Korea says US carrier’s return aggravates tensions

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea warned on Saturday that the U.S. redeployment of an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula is causing a “considerably large negative impact” on regional security, as it defended its recent missile tests as a “proper response.” intimidating military drills between his rivals.

The North Korean Defense Ministry’s statement came a day after the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan began a fresh round of naval exercises with South Korean warships off the east coast of the peninsula. The Reagan and her strike group returned to the area after North Korea fired a powerful missile over Japan earlier this week in protest of the carrier group’s earlier training with South Korea.

Reagan’s transfer is “an event with a significant negative impact on the regional situation,” an unidentified spokesman for North Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement shared by state media. “The Armed Forces of (North Korea) are seriously approaching the extremely worrying evolution of the current situation.”

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He also called Reagan’s return “a sort of military bluff” to issue a warning about North Korea’s “just response” to “the highly provocative and menacing US-South Korea joint military exercises.”

North Korea views US-South Korean military exercises as an invasion rehearsal and is particularly sensitive when such exercises involve strategic US assets such as an aircraft carrier. North Korea has argued it was forced to pursue a nuclear weapons program to deal with the US nuclear threat. US and South Korean officials have repeatedly said they have no intention of attacking the north.

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In the past two weeks, North Korea has launched 10 ballistic missiles into the sea in five launch events, adding to its record-breaking pace of weapons testing this year. Recent weapons tests include a nuclear-capable missile that flew over Japan for the first time in five years and showed range to hit the US Pacific area of ​​Guam and beyond.

Earlier this year, North Korea tested other nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that could put the US mainland and its allies South Korea and Japan within striking distance.

North Korea’s test run shows that its leader, Kim Jong Un, has no intention of resuming diplomacy with the US and wants to focus on expanding his weapons arsenal. However, some experts say Kim would eventually aim to use his advanced nuclear program to force major outside concessions, such as recognizing North Korea as a legitimate nuclear state, which Kim believes is essential to lifting crippling UN sanctions on his country .

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The Reagan carrier group’s recent training with the South Korean Navy is scheduled to end on Saturday.

South Korean officials recently said North Korea is also ready to test a new liquid-fueled ICBM and a submarine-launched ballistic missile, while maintaining readiness to conduct its first underground nuclear test since 2017.

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