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(LEAD) U.S. aircraft carrier arrives in S. Korea

2016/03/13 11:17

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with carrier's arrival; ADDS photo)

SEOUL/BUSAN, March 13 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. nuclear-powered supercarrier arrived in South Korea Sunday to join a combined exercise, the military here said.

The USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) made a port visit to Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to join the March 7-18 Key Resolve military exercise between South Korea and the United States.

The 103,000-ton aircraft carrier will lead the 7,000-strong USS John C. Stennis Strike Group.

Three other guided-missile destroyers - the USS Stockdale, USS Chung-Hoon and USS William P. Lawrence -- will join the Busan port visit, along with the USS Mobile Bay cruiser.

The USS John C. Stennis is the U.S. Navy's seventh Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered supercarrier, loaded with navy and marine aircraft including the F/A-18 Hornet and EA-6B Prowler combat jets as well as the E-2C Hawkeye early-warning aircraft.

The aircraft carrier's two nuclear reactors provide almost unlimited range of operation and a maximum speed of some 56 kilometers per hour.

The USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), a U.S. nuclear-powered supercarrier, arrives in the southeastern port city of Busan on March 13, 2016. (Yonhap) The USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), a U.S. nuclear-powered supercarrier, arrives in the southeastern port city of Busan on March 13, 2016. (Yonhap)

During the visit, the carrier's personnel will visit and engage with their South Korean Navy partners and conduct cultural exchanges with local citizens, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea (CNFK) had said last Monday.

This year's Key Resolve exercise marks the largest of its kind as the allies strengthen their defense cooperation against North Korea's increasing nuclear and missile threats.

Earlier this year, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test and a long-range missile test, disguised as a satellite launch.

By deploying the USS John C. Stennis, Washington will be sending another message to Pyongyang. On Jan. 10, four days after the nuclear test, the United States deployed strategic bomber B-52 to South Korea. Following February's missile test, nuclear-propelled USS North Carolina (SSN-777) attack submarine visited Busan. F-22 stealth bombers also landed in South Korea last month.

The United States is reportedly considering mobilizing its B-2 stealth bomber during the exercise.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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