US forces are thought to be mobilising another aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan, near North Korea amid rising tensions in the region. The warship stationed in Japan is expected to join the USS Carl Vinson for dual-carrier naval exercises.
The US Navy said Reagan departed for the Korean peninsula from its homeport in Yokosuka, Japan on Tuesday, 16 May. According to the US Pacific Fleet, Reagan and its Carrier Air Wing Five are currently focussed on "flight deck and carrier qualifications" as they wrap their routine maintenance.
Deploying two aircraft carriers simultaneously to sail the same waters is seen as an extraordinary step by the US. It comes within days of North Korea's ballistic missile launch – which showed signs of significant progress in the hermit kingdom's weapons technology. South Korea is also likely to be part of maritime drills if the two supercarriers hold training manoeuvres.
"USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan are in the Western Pacific, but they are not in close proximity to each other," added the statement from the US forces. Both Reagan and Vinson are Nimitz-class carriers hosting dozens of warplanes. The 1,092-foot Reagan is carrying more than 4,500 crew members.
Although it is unclear how long the two sophisticated vessels would be stationed in the waters near the Korean peninsula, Reagan is being deployed with the idea of eventually replacing the Vinson, CNN reported citing unnamed defence officials.
The nuclear-powered Carl Vinson arrived in the Korean peninsula in April leading a strike group comprising two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser.