US Navy Airman Sean Farrell, from Camarillo, California, mans the rails as the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan pulls in to Busan, South Korea. on Sept. 23, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Gorge Cardenas.
Last week’s arrival of the US Navy’s aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan in the South Korean port of Busan has the divided peninsula buzzing about the mighty message it’s sending to communist strongman Kim Jong Un.
US Navy Rear Adm. Buzz Donnelly called his carrier strike group’s visit to South Korea “of strategic importance” and a “clear and unambiguous demonstration” of American commitment to its alliance with Seoul.
“We’re excited to return to Busan,” Donnelly continued in a prepared address released on Friday, Sept. 23. “Our presence and commitments to the Republic of Korea and the Indo-Pacific region are not new, and visits like this are part of our routine operations in the region that have helped maintain peace for more than 70 years.”
Flanked by the guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville and the destroyer Barry, the Ronald Reagan is the first US flattop to make a South Korean port call in nearly five years, a time of fluctuating relations between Washington and Pyongyang.
Although a string of summits between American, South Korean, and North Korean leaders initially bolstered hope for peace, the Kim Jong Un regime refused to unilaterally disarm its growing nuclear arsenal.
US sailors on board the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan watch as the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler Yukon steams alongside shortly before a refueling at sea in the waters east of the Korean peninsula, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, is conducting joint exercises with South Korean forces. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Oswald Felix Jr.
“Major training events have been canceled, postponed, and scaled back in support of diplomacy in the naive hope that it would influence Kim Jong Un to come to the negotiating table to discuss denuclearization,” defense analyst David Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces colonel who specializes in North Korea and East Asia security affairs, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
In recent months, Kim’s regime has provocatively announced it has developed new types of both hypersonic and low-flying missiles, plus a mammoth but untested intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland.
Maxwell said the Ronald Reagan strike group arrived to show Kim and the wider region the “US is fully committed with all necessary resources to defend freedom on the Korean peninsula.”
On Sunday, North Korea test-fired a short-range ballistic missile into its eastern waters — a stern welcome to US forces on the peninsula. The next day, Ronald Reagan and its escorts began maritime maneuvers with South Korean forces.
Experts predict North Korea will continue to lob missiles into the sea. Maxwell said the US should disregard the gestures and keep training with the South Koreans.
“The Republic of Korea and the US alliance should take the opportunity presented by every North Korean provocation to show that Kim Jong Un’s political warfare, blackmail diplomacy, and warfighting strategies will fail,” Maxwell said. “It is imperative that US military forces operate with other military forces to ensure interoperability.”
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Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.
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