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US deploys carrier strike group off North Korea for first time since 2017

USS Abraham Lincoln and JMSDF in East Sea
US and Japan Maritime Self Defence Force ships sail in formation in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Photo: US Navy

US Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) is leading a carrier strike group on a bilateral exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) in the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea).

According to a statement from the Japan-based 7th Fleet, the carrier is joined by guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111), as well as JMSDF destroyers JS Kongō (DDG 173) and JS Inazuma (DD 105).

The evolution marks the first time since 2017 that a US Navy carrier strike group has operated in waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

In March this year, USS Abraham Lincoln operated in the Yellow Sea, conducting an air power demonstration in response to continued North Korean missile launches.

The drills this week come at a time of increased tensions with North Korea, which has significantly ramped up its missile test activities since the start of the year. Last month, North Korea even completed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, the first of its kind since 2017.

What is more, officials from the US, South Korea and Japan are suspecting North Korea could carry out an underground nuclear test soon. The timing also aligns with major political events in North Korea, which will include the 110th birthday of its founder, Kim Il-sung, this week.

Photo: US Navy

“During bilateral exercises between Abraham Lincoln CSG and JMSDF, the two navies strengthen all-domain awareness and maneuvers across a distributed maritime environment,” the US Navy said as it released photos of the East Sea exercise on Wednesday.

“Bilateral operations like this one reassure our allies and partners of the US commitment to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”