USS ‘Ronald Reagan’, watched by China, conducts drills as North Korea tensions flare

Sunday, October 1, 2017
By Paul Martin
1 Oct, 2017

With the crisis surrounding Pyongyang escalating, Washington’s only carrier based outside America, USS ‘Ronald Reagan’, conducted what have been described as “routine” military drills in the South China Sea under the vigilant eye of China.

F-18 Super Hornet jet fighters took off from the deck of the USS ‘Ronald Reagan’ aircraft carrier on Saturday as two Chinese frigates maintained a line-of-sight vigil, Reuters reported.

Officers on the Japanese-based ‘Reagan’ described frequent close-quarter surveillance from the ships of the People’s Liberation Army Navy in international waters, saying that at times Chinese vessels shadow the carrier en route to other destinations. Chinese frigates linger for days in the vicinity of US ships and planes that protect the ‘Reagan’.

The crew of the carrier ensure safe passage by alerting their unwanted Chinese escorts when the ‘Reagan’ sharply alters course, according to officers.

“We’ve had no issues. They’ve been very professional,” Rear Admiral Marc Dalton, commander of the strike group assigned to the ‘Reagan’, as well as the larger battle forces of the US Seventh Fleet, told Reuters.

“We see them on a regular basis,” he added.

The US regularly stages drills with its regional allies – South Korea and Japan – to demonstrate its strength to North Korea. The war games fuel fears in Pyongyang that they could be used as cover for an invasion.

The drills only provoke North Korea’s leadership into taking a confrontational stance, a senior Russian diplomat said earlier this week.

“The massive maneuvers staged near the coast of North Korea are apparently meant to taunt the North Korean leader [Kim Jong-un], to provoke him into some sloppy action,” Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s non-proliferation and arms controls department, said on Tuesday as cited by Interfax.

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