With a deafening roar, FA-18 fighter jets and other aircraft performed touch-and-go landing operations on the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Nov. 13 in a display intended for both reporters and North Korea.
The naval exercise, which began on Nov. 11, is scheduled to end on Nov. 14. It was the first time three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups have been assembled in the Sea of Japan since North Korea's nuclear and missile program surfaced in the 1990s.
The show of strength was intended to underline the U.S. administration’s resolve to respond to North Korean provocations with possible military action, in addition to strengthened economic sanctions.
President Donald Trump has said "all options are on the table" concerning North Korea.
"I think the opportunity that three aircraft carriers in this region operating together and training together sends a powerful message," Rear Adm. Gregory Harris, commander of the Carrier Strike Group 11 in which the USS Nimitz belongs, told The Asahi Shimbun. "One, the United States has the world power and unique capability to be able to bring this kind of fire power to bear at a time and place of our choosing."
The convergence of three carrier strike groups is interpreted as a sign that the United States has been fully ready and has the intention to respond to actions taken by North Korea, according to defense analysts.
The three strike groups are led by the USS Ronald Reagan, based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, the San Diego-based USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Nimitz, based in the state of Washington, according to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in Yokosuka.
Japanese defense authorities also inspected the exercise alongside reporters on that day.
Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force held a joint exercise with the U.S. strike groups on Nov. 12.
Although Japan had agreed to a U.S. plan to stage a tripartite exercise with South Korea, it did not materialize because of the schedule of South Korean forces, according to sources in the Japanese government.