While the USS Kitty Hawk undergoes extensive work in dry dock, other U.S. Navy ships will assume its role as a deterrent presence in the Western Pacific, officials said Tuesday.

Just as when the Kitty Hawk was deployed to the Persian Gulf earlier this year, the USS Carl Vinson strike group — augmented with ships that normally operate with the Kitty Hawk — will remain in the region, a 7th Fleet spokesman said.

“The Carl Vinson strike group was deployed in February to backfill for the Kitty Hawk,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Hart, reading from a 7th Fleet statement. “Now that the Kitty Hawk has begun an extended maintenance period, the Vinson strike group will stay here in order to maintain our defensive posture in the region.

“This is not aggressive in nature,” he added, repeating a mantra the U.S. military has used in recent months in an effort to cool a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Though Navy officials will not confirm a timeline for the Kitty Hawk’s repair period, senior officers said the dry-dock period will last through October.

Navy officials would not comment on whether the Vinson strike group would remain for the duration of Kitty Hawk’s unavailability, or if another aircraft carrier would take its place.

An Associated Press report in February claimed Pentagon officials already had decided to keep the Vinson in the Western Pacific during the Kitty Hawk’s repair period.

Local Navy officials would not comment on that report.

According to Navy officials, the USS Curtis Wilbur, the USS Cushing and the USS O’Brien — all part of the Kitty Hawk’s strike group — are operating with the Vinson.

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