The carrier USS Carl Vinson has arrived at the Port of Busan to participate in Operation Foal Eagle, an annual mass exercise simulating a response to a North Korean attack
The Vinson brings with her the F/A-18 fighter-bombers of Carrier Air Wing Two, and she is accompanied in port by the destroyer Wayne E. Meyer. The Vinson carrier strike group also includes the Ticonderoga-class cruiser Lake Champlain and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Michael Murphy.
"The training opportunities we have in this region are world-class and allow us to build upon our strong alliance with the Republic of Korea," said Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander of Carrier Strike Group One. "For more than 60 years, the United States and Republic of Korea have operated side-by-side as partners and I couldn't be more excited to further this relationship."
Under the Navy's new "3rd Fleet Forward" policy, the Vinson will remain under the command of 3rd Fleet commander Vice Adm. Nora Tyson during the deployment, rather than transitioning into the 7th Fleet AOR on the eastern side of the international date line.
Exercises raise tensions on Korean peninsula
As in years past, North Korea has threatened "merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater" if the Foal Eagle exercises infringe on its "sovereignty and dignity.”
This year, the message appears to be more serious. At a rare press conference at the North Korean embassy in Beijing on Wednesday, DPRK representative Pak Myong-ho said that "we cannot accept the joint military drills as they are sparking tensions . . . The peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula is under serious threat. Now the situation is already on the brink of nuclear war.”
In a development that may be especially troubling for Pyongyang, Korean military sources told Yonhap that U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six – the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden – will be participating in exercises meant to "practice incapacitating North Korean leadership.” (Whether or not the symbolism is intended, the Vinson was also involved in the Bin Laden raid: she received his remains for burial at sea.)
A Pentagon spokesman denied the reports of SEAL Team Six's deployment in an interview with Business Insider, and that the military does not "train for decapitation missions." Pentagon officials told Fox News that SEAL Team Six "is not part of this training," and that only local special operations units will be involved.
Tillerson: North Korea policy has "failed"
At a joint press conference in Tokyo Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that diplomacy had failed to contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
"The diplomatic and other efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of de-nuclearization have failed. So we have 20 years of failed approach," Tillerson told media. "In the face of this ever escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required."
Tillerson did not specify what a "different approach" would look like. At Thursday's daily press briefing in Washington, White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to say whether the president was considering military action, and told media that he could only confirm that the president would keep all options on the table.