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Navy confirms USS Nimitz visit to South Korean port

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz participates in the Great Green Fleet Demonstration as part of Rim of the Pacific 2012.

SEOUL – The U.S. Navy officially confirmed Friday that the USS Nimitz will, indeed, visit Busan this weekend.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier’s port call was a subject of controversy earlier this week when reference to it was made in a report on North Korea’s government-run Korean Central News Agency before the Nimitz visit was announced or otherwise reported.

South Korea and U.S. officials initially feared a phone tap, intelligence leak or hacked email account might have tipped North Korea off, but eventually determined posts on a camera club’s website combined with a Navy post from last week probably led the North to conclude the Nimitz was headed to Busan.

The Navy did announce the Nimitz had entered the jurisdiction of the 7th Fleet. The camera club posts then referenced the impending visit to Busan of an aircraft carrier, suggesting places to photograph the ship and announcing officials were looking for drivers to ferry American sailors around town.

South Korean media outlets, quoting anonymous sources, say the Nimitz is in the area to participate in a joint U.S.-South Korea naval exercise next week.

Friday’s Navy release said only that, “The U.S. and (South Korea) are allies, and U.S. Navy ships regularly call on (South Korean) ports.

“The U.S. Navy ships are a tangible symbol of U.S. commitment to the region and show continued interest in ensuring a climate for regional stability and economic prosperity,” the release said.

During the port visit, it continued, “Nimitz Carrier Strike Group personnel will have the opportunity to engage with their (South Korea) Navy counterparts and for cultural exchange with the people of (South Korea).”

rabiroff.jon@stripes.com

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