The entire USS Ronald Reagan strike group, which includes four destroyers and two submarines, will be participating in exercises alongside South Korean ships in late October. The Pentagon claims that the exercises have been in the works for a long time, and are not a response to current tensions with Pyongyang.
On Friday, the 100,000-ton Reagan conducted drills with Japanese warships south of the Korean Peninsula as a response to the twin North Korean ballistic missile tests in August and September.
Then on Saturday, a pair of US B-1B Lancer strategic bombers flew within miles of the North Korean border. North Korea did not issue an official response to the mission, leading South Korean intelligence to claim that Pyongyang only found out about the bombers when the Pentagon told them.
Japanese outlet Chosun Ilbo reports that the Pentagon is considering arguably their most severe military action yet: sending a carrier group over the Northern Limit Line, a disputed maritime demarcation in the Yellow Sea. This could allow an American fleet to sail up North Korea's west coast and potentially threaten Pyongyang itself.
The peninsula has settled into an uncomfortable, but predictable, rhythm. US bloc military exercises are met with North Korean missile and nuclear tests; North Korean tests are followed by more drills, with increasingly lethal hardware. But bit by bit, the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington has become more belligerent as the stand-off threatens to wear into its sixth month.
During his speech before the United Nations, US President Donald Trump said that "the United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea." He added that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, or "Rocket Man" as Trump has derisively called him, "is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."
"Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea [Ri Yong Ho] speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!" Trump tweeted on Sunday
In response, Yong Ho called Trump's tweet a declaration of war. He threatened to shoot down American bombers, even if they didn't violate North Korean airspace, and said that Trump had "committed an irreversible mistake of making our rocket's visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more."