Navy deploying two task forces to South Korea

The task force is set to conduct maritime maneuvers around the Korean Peninsula as tensions with North Korea remain heightened

Navy deploying two task forces to South Korea

The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Columbus (SSN 762) is underway conducting routine operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Khor/DVIDSHUB)

Rob Shikina
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

A Pearl Harbor-based nuclear submarine is part of a task force set to conduct maritime maneuvers around the Korean Peninsula as tensions with North Korea remain heightened.

The U.S. Navy is deploying two task forces, including four destroyers and the USS Columbus, a Pearl-based, fast-attack sub, to waters around South Korea.

The “routine exercises” are scheduled to begin Monday and follow U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments Friday that the U.S. may take pre-emptive action against North Korea if the country elevates the threat of its weapons program.

Tillerson said the U.S. policy of “strategic patience” has ended. His comments came after North Korea fired four ballistic missiles that landed in the ocean near Japan earlier this month. In response, the U.S. deployed a powerful anti-missile system known as the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, to South Korea, angering China, who sees the missile’s radar system as a threat.

And at the beginning of the year, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, said the country was in the final stage of testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear weapon to the U.S. mainland.

North Korea recently conducted a test of a high-thrust engine that Kim hailed as a breakthrough for the county’s space program.

In a press release posted Friday on the U.S. Pacific Fleet website, the Navy said ships assigned to Task Force 30 and Task Force 70 will conduct exercises with the South Korean navy to strengthen maritime tactics, techniques and procedures.

The U.S. routinely conducts carrier strike group operations in the waters around South Korea to practice “maritime maneuvers, strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance, and improve regional security,” the release said, referring to South Korea by its formal name, the Republic of Korea.

“This exercise is yet another example of the strength and resolve of the combined U.S. and the ROK naval force,” said Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander, Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group. “The U.S. and the Republic of Korea share one of the strongest alliances in the world and we grow stronger as an alliance because of our routine exercises here in South Korea and the close relationship and ties that we forge from operating at sea together.”

Exercises will include subject matter exchanges, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare drills, communication drills, air defense exercises, and counter-mine planning, the release said.

The defensive exercise focuses on improving the close working relationship between South Korean and U.S. navies and “helps both navies maintain a combined defense posture to protect the ROK from future North Korean unprovoked acts of aggression,” said Rear Adm. Choi Sung-Mok, chief of staff for the South Korean Fleet.

Additional assets joining the exercise are Carrier Air Wing 2, four Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers — USS Barry, USS Wayne E. Meyer, USS McCampbell, and USS Stethem; the USS Columbus; and P-3 and P-8 patrol planes with Task Force 72.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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