“The dangerous and aggressive behavior by North Korea concerns everybody in the world,” says Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, commander of the carrier strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan. “We have made it clear with this exercise, and many others, that we are ready to defend [South Korea].”
North Korea has continued to test ballistic missiles and nuclear explosives despite continued international pressure to denuclearize. Pyongyang has maintained that outside pressure only strengthens its resolve to develop what it calls a strong nuclear deterrent.
The drills are taking place shortly before US President Donald Trump is slated to visit Asia. From November 3 to November 14, the president will make stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Hawaii, the White House said Monday. One question that has emerged as a source of debate within the administration concerns whether Trump should visit the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean Peninsula. Some staffers worry the president may not be safe there, the Washington Post reported Thursday morning.
With Pyongyang and Washington trading bellicose threats against one another’s territories, 72 percent of US citizens are worried the US will go to war during the next four years, according to a Thursday NBC News/Survey Monkey poll. Approximately 54 percent of survey respondents were most concerned by the North Korean threat, a figure that’s jumped 13 percentage points since July, Axios’ Eric Pandey observed.
On Monday, Kim In-yong, a North Korean diplomatic official at the UN, told the UN General Assembly that nuclear war could happen at any moment. The following day, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said direct talks with North Korea had not been ruled out.