US aircraft carrier docks in South Korea after exercises

SEOUL (Reuters) – The U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan arrived in the South Korean port of Busan on Thursday for a five-day visit aimed at sending a message of deterrence to North Korea, South Korea’s defence ministry said.

The nuclear-powered carrier and its strike group, which includes the guided-missile destroyer the Shoup, this week took part in exercises with South Korea’s navy and Japan’s defence force in waters near South Korea’s Jeju Island.

The visit comes after the United States pledged to enhance the “regular visibility” of its strategic military assets in a Washington Declaration, agreed by President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden in April.

The carrier’s visit is an opportunity to strengthen the defence posture of South Korea and the United States in case of any North Korean provocation, the South Korean ministry said this week.

The visit also comes after North Korean state media reportedthat leader Kim Jong Un exchanged letters with Russian President Vladimir Putin vowing to advance ties and wishing him victory over what he called hegemony and pressure from imperialists.

A recent rare visit to Russia by Kim has stoked U.S. concern that a revived Russia-North Korea axis could bolster Russia’s military in Ukraine and provide Kim with missile technology banned under U.N. resolutions.

Appearing at a South Korean parliamentary hearing on Thursday, General Kim Seung-kyum, who chairs the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, commented on whether there were lessons for South Korea from the attack by Hamas on Israel.

Kim said his country faced an enemy with a “different kind of force” compared with the Palestinian militant group, adding that South Korean maintained a strong military readiness in case of any provocation.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Ed Davies, Robert Birsel)