The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrives at Busan, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrives at Busan, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (Elizabeth Grubbs/U.S. Navy)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — A U.S. aircraft carrier steamed into South Korea’s largest port Tuesday as a deterrent to North Korea amid an anticipated satellite launch by the communist regime.

The USS Carl Vinson — the third Navy carrier to visit the peninsula so far this year — arrived at Busan as part of an agreement between Washington and Seoul to promote the “regular visibility” of American military assets in the country, the Ministry of Defense said in a news release Tuesday.

Homeported in San Diego, the Carl Vinson is capable of carrying roughly 5,000 sailors and 70 aircraft, according to the Navy’s website.

The deployment signals a “combined defense posture” against North Korea, the ministry’s release added.

“Cooperation between the U.S. and [South Korean] navies is critical to maintaining peace and security in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula,” Rear Adm. Carlos Sardiello, commander of Carrier Strike Group 1, said in a Navy news release Tuesday.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik on Nov. 14 held an annual military conference in Seoul, where they agreed to reinforce their alliance and increase the “frequency and intensity” of U.S. deployments to the country, according to a speech from the minister at the time.

“Secretary Austin and I reaffirm the steadfast commitment of both countries to the powerful [South Korea]-U.S. combined defense posture to deter and respond to such threats by North Korea,” Shin said.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan visited Busan in October to drill with the South Korean and Japanese navies. The two-day exercise was the first maritime training between the countries since 2016.

Two weeks earlier, a nuclear-capable B-52H Stratofortress landed in South Korea for the first time in at least 30 years. The bomber went on to conduct the first-ever joint air drills with South Korean and Japanese fighter jets.

The Carl Vinson’s arrival comes as North Korea is expected to attempt to launch a satellite into orbit. A Japanese coast guard spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone Tuesday that it was notified by the North of a scheduled launch over the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and east of Luzon, Philippines, between Wednesday and Dec. 1.

Japanese officials regularly speak to the media on a customary condition of anonymity.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned North Korea’s launch plans Tuesday. He said Tokyo will take all possible measures to ensure the country’s safety and that he would coordinate with the U.S., South Korea and other countries to strongly urge the North to refrain from conducting a launch, according to a news release from the Prime Minister’s office.

“Even though the purpose is to launch a satellite, it is a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution if it uses ballistic missile technology,” Kishida told reporters.

North Korea attempted satellite launches on May 31 and Aug. 31; both failed to reach orbit. The regime has also fired 21 ballistic missiles in 14 days of testing so far this year.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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