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3 US Aircraft Carriers to Start Joint Exercise in Western Pacific


FILE - The Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, center, and the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Stethem, left, steam alongside ships from the South Korean navy during joint naval drills, Oct. 18, 2017, east of the Korean Peninsula.

The Navy will conduct a joint exercise with three aircraft carriers in the Western Pacific for the first time in a decade.

The USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt strike groups will conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea and other training in international waters Nov. 11-14, the Navy said Wednesday.

“It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift. “This exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region.”

The last time three carrier strike groups operated together in the Western Pacific was during exercises Valiant Shield 2006 and 2007, which were off the coast of Guam.

FILE - The USS Nimitz, USS Kitty Hawk and USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Groups transit in formation during Valiant Shield 2007 in the Pacific Ocean in this Aug. 14, 2007 photo.
FILE - The USS Nimitz, USS Kitty Hawk and USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Groups transit in formation during Valiant Shield 2007 in the Pacific Ocean in this Aug. 14, 2007 photo.

The exercise announcement comes as President Donald Trump arrived in China to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.

White House officials say the president intends to press China, North Korea’s closest ally and top trading partner, to push the North to abandon its nuclear program.

Earlier in Seoul, Trump warned Pyongyang that it should “not underestimate” the United States.

“We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity and our sacred liberty,” Trump told members of South Korea’s National Assembly.

Trump also noted that the three U.S. aircraft carriers “are appropriately positioned” near the Korean Peninsula.

VOA's Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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