WASHINGTON — The Navy has sent an aircraft carrier to the waters between North Korea and Japan after the rogue state launched an intermediate-range missile over Japan for the first time in five years Tuesday.
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan crossed Tuesday through the Tsugaru-Kaikyo Strait, which separates Japan’s two largest islands, Honshu and Hokkaido, according to Navy photos.
The move comes after Pyongyang’s fifth missile test in two weeks. While the Reagan is based in Japan and regularly patrols the Western Pacific, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday said the carrier’s shift was meant to push back against North Korea, according to The Korea Herald.
“The re-dispatch of the carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula is highly unusual and shows the resolute will of the South Korea-US alliance to strengthen the alliance’s readiness posture against North Korea’s consecutive provocations and to respond decisively to any kind of provocation and threat from North Korea,” the South Korean Joint Staff said, according to the South Korean newspaper.
The Navy declined to say whether Reagan’s move to the region was made in response to Pyongyang’s latest launch, adding that it “does not comment on future operations.”
However, the service did confirm the ship remained in the Sea of Japan Wednesday.
The US and South Korea have been conducting live-fire drills in response to North Korea’s latest missile test. During one such drill, a South Korean ballistic missile malfunctioned and exploded as it hit the ground, causing panic among nearby residents.