The United States appears to be flexing its military might in the Pacific, sending three aircraft carriers to the region for potential exercises.
Pentagon officials Thursday downplayed the deployment of the USS Nimitz, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Theodore Roosevelt to the region, saying it had been planned "for quite a while."
"It's just an opportunity to exercise three carrier strike groups together," said Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff. "We always seek to do that when we have an opportunity to do that; it doesn't come along very often."
Officials also said the deployments were not directed at recent provocations by North Korea, but would likely bolster U.S. allies in the region.
"It does demonstrate a unique and powerful capability that has a very significant assurance effect on our allies," McKenzie said.
Each carrier strike group can include up to 10 ships with as many as 7,500 sailors, while supporting dozens of fighter jets and other aircraft.
The three carrier groups are still thousands of miles apart, and military officials did not share any details of when exercises might begin.
North Korea has repeatedly threatened to test both its missile and nuclear warhead capabilities.
Last month, an official said Pyongyang could test "the most powerful detonation" of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.
"North Korea makes a lot of threats, and we are ready for anything that may come," Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters Thursday, adding, "we haven't, to my knowledge, changed any of our status or our posture."
The last time the U.S. had three carrier strike groups in the Pacific Ocean was 2007.