South Korea to join 3 US aircraft carriers in western Pacific drills

South Korea's naval ships take part in a military drill.
South Korea's naval ships take part in a military drill.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean warships will take part in upcoming joint drills involving three US aircraft carriers in a fresh show of force against North Korea, a Seoul military official said on Friday (Nov 10).

The US Navy said on Thursday that the three vessels - the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt - will conduct "coordinated operations in international waters" in the western Pacific between Saturday and Tuesday.

It is unusual for Washington to have three of its aircraft carriers in the same place at the same time, and US Pacific Fleet commander Scott Swift said in a statement it was the first such triple-carrier drill in the region since 2007.

Seven South Korean navy vessels - three destroyers and four escort ships - will take part in the exercises, the South Korean official said.

Nuclear-armed North Korea regularly denounces such military drills as rehearsals for invasion and sometimes conducts its own military manoeuvres or missile tests in response.

The US warships will carry out air defence drills, sea surveillance, defensive air combat training and other training operations, the US navy said.

The exercises come on the heels of US President Donald Trump's visit to Seoul and Beijing this week, with the North's nuclear and missile threats looming large.

On Wednesday, Trump warned North Korea not to "try" the United States but appeared to moderate his bellicose tone somewhat, offering Pyongyang's young leader Kim Jong Un a "path to a better future".