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US aircraft carrier arrives in South Korea as a show of force against nuclear-armed North Korea

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US aircraft carrier arrives in South Korea as a show of force against nuclear-armed North Korea
News

News

US aircraft carrier arrives in South Korea as a show of force against nuclear-armed North Korea

2024-06-23 10:04 Last Updated At:10:10

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier arrived Saturday in South Korea for a three-way exercise involving Japan as they step up military training to cope with North Korean threats, which have escalated following a security pact with Russia.

The arrival of the USS Theodore Roosevelt strike group in Busan came a day after South Korea summoned the Russian ambassador to protest a major deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week.

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An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier arrived Saturday in South Korea for a three-way exercise involving Japan as they step up military training to cope with North Korean threats, which have escalated following a security pact with Russia.

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

Crew members and member of the media gather in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

Crew members and member of the media gather in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

Crew members walk by aircraft in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

Crew members walk by aircraft in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

The Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is anchored in Busan, South Korea, Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

The Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is anchored in Busan, South Korea, Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

The agreement pledges mutual defense assistance in the event of war. South Korea says the deal poses a threat to its security and warned that it could consider sending arms to Ukraine to help fight off the Russian invasion as a response — a move that would surely ruin its relations with Moscow.

Following a meeting between their defense chiefs in Singapore earlier in June, the United States, South Korea and Japan announced the Freedom Edge drills.

The Roosevelt strike group will participate in the exercise that is expected to start within June. South Korea’s military didn’t immediately confirm specific details of the training.

Rear Admiral. Christopher Alexander, commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, said the exercise is aimed at sharpening tactical proficiency of ships and improving interoperability between the countries' navies "to ensure we are ready to respond to any crisis and contingency.”

South Korea’s navy said in a statement that the arrival of the carrier demonstrates the strong defense posture of the allies and “stern willingness to respond to advancing North Korean threats.” The carrier’s visit comes seven months after another U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, came to South Korea in a show of strength against the North.

Following completion of the exercise, the Roosevelt strike group will leave for the Middle East to “continue promoting regional stability, deter aggression, and protect the free flow of commerce in the region,” Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement.

The Roosevelt strike group also participated in a three-way exercise with South Korean and Japanese naval forces in April in the disputed East China Sea, where worries about China’s territorial claims are rising.

In the face of growing North Korean threats, the United States, South Korea and Japan have expanded their combined training and boosted the visibility of strategic U.S. military assets in the region, seeking to intimidate the North. The United States and South Korea have also been updating their nuclear deterrence strategies, with Seoul seeking stronger assurances that Washington would swiftly and decisively use its nuclear capabilities to defend its ally from a North Korean nuclear attack.

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

Crew members and member of the media gather in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

Crew members and member of the media gather in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

Crew members walk by aircraft in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

Crew members walk by aircraft in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

The Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is anchored in Busan, South Korea, Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

The Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is anchored in Busan, South Korea, Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

An F-18 fighter aircraft sits in the hanger of the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, anchored in Busan Naval Base in Busan, South Korea Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s far-right national security minister visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site on Thursday, a move that could disrupt the delicate Gaza cease-fire talks.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist settler leader, said he had gone up to the contested Jerusalem hilltop compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray for the return of the hostages "but without a reckless deal, without surrendering.”

The move threatens to disrupt sensitive talks aimed at reaching a cease-fire in the 9-month-old Israel-Hamas war. Israeli negotiators landed in Cairo on Wednesday to continue talks.

The visit also came just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves for a trip to the United States, where he will address Congress.

Ben-Gvir said while standing in front of the golden dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque that he “is praying and working hard" to ensure that Netanyahu will not give in to international pressure and will continue with the military campaign in Gaza.

Ben-Gvir last visited the site in May to protest countries unilaterally recognizing Palestinian statehood.

He has been convicted eight times for offenses that include racism and supporting a terrorist organization. As a teen, his views were so extreme that the army banned him from compulsory military service.

As security minister, Ben-Gvir oversees the country’s police force. As a key coalition partner, Ben-Gvir also has the power to rob Netanyahu of his parliamentary majority and try to force early elections.

Ben-Gvir has used his influence to push forward pet projects and encourage Netanyahu to press ahead with the war in Gaza in the face of widespread calls to reach a cease-fire deal that would bring home hostages.

Jews and Muslims both claim the Jerusalem hilltop compound, which is considered the holiest site for Jews.

Palestinians consider the mosque a national symbol and view such visits as provocative, though Ben-Gvir has frequently visited the site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, during tense periods. Tensions over the compound have fueled past rounds of violence.

In an overnight session that lasted into Thursday morning, Israel’s parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state. The vote was largely symbolic and meant to send a message ahead of Netanyahu’s trip to the U.S.

Overnight Israeli strikes Thursday in central Gaza killed at least 11 people, according to the Hamas-run Civil Defense organization and hospitals. At least two children and two women were killed in air strikes on a house and a car.

In recent weeks, Israel has stepped up strikes in central Gaza, where many Palestinians have fled to escape fighting in other parts of the beleaguered territory. Israel’s military said it targeted a senior commander from the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad’s naval forces in Gaza City, and another Islamic Jihad commander responsible for launches in the city of Shejayiah.

Israel also said it killed a senior commander affiliated with Hamas and other militant groups in Lebanon. In a statement, Sunni al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, or the Islamic Group, identified him as Mohammad Hamed Jabbara and said he was killed in a strike in the western Bekaa area in Lebanon not far from the Syrian border. The Israeli military described Jabara as a Hamas operative in Lebanon who helped coordinate Islamic Group attacks targeting northern Israel.

The war in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, has killed more than 38,600 people, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The war has created a humanitarian catastrophe in the coastal Palestinian territory, displaced most of its 2.3 million population and triggered widespread hunger.

Hamas’ October attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and militants took about 250 hostage. About 120 remain in captivity, with about a third of them believed to be dead, according to Israeli authorities.

FILE - Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool, File)

FILE - Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool, File)

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