USS Theodore Roosevelt in South Korea Ahead of Transit to Middle East, North Korea Condemns Visit

June 24, 2024 4:12 PM
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114), June 11, 2024. US Navy Photo

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) pulled into the South Korean city of Busan on Saturday for a port visit before carrying out the trilateral exercise Freedom Edge with South Korea and Japan. Following the exercise, the carrier is set to transit to the Red Sea, according to Pentagon officials. Meanwhile, carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) left Guam on Saturday while carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) is making its way to Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific 2024 (RIMPAC 2024) exercise held from June 27 to Aug. 1.

Roosevelt (CVN-71), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 and destroyers USS Halsey (DDG-97) and USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118) docked into Busan Naval Base on Saturday morning according to a Republic of Korea Navy release.

This was the first time a carrier has visited South Korea since November when carrier Carl Vinson called at Busan.

“Our military will respond to any provocation by North Korea immediately, forcefully, and to the end, and the U.S.-ROK alliance will support peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region based on a close cooperative system,”said Rear Admiral Lee Jae-seop, head of the Naval Operations Command’s Maritime Operations Center, in the release.

The Theodore Roosevelt CSG is expected to conduct the inaugural iteration of the multidomain trilateral Freedom Edge exercise with South Korea and Japan this week. USNI News reported on Saturday the strike group will head to the Red Sea following the completion of the exercise.

North Korea on Monday denounced Theodore Roosevelt’s visit in a press statement by Kim Kang Il, vice-minister of National Defence for North Korea, carried by state media Korean Central News Agency.

“The DPRK strongly denounces provocative action of hostile forces with all possibilities of demonstrating deterrence,” reads the statement.

Kim added that the U.S action of bringing a carrier thousands of miles away from its home to the doorstep of North Korea was “was by no means for the purpose of “repair and maintenance” or to “celebrate” the ROK-US alliance,” according to the statement.

The North Korean vice-minister also listed several actions by the U.S and South Korea that resulted in the situation worsening such an exercise dropping a precision-guided bomb from a B-1B on June 5, the new guidelines on nuclear strategic plan from the ROK-U.S. nuclear consultative group (NCG) on June 10 and the special joint air drills staged by the U.S. and South Korea from June 17-20.

“It is a very dangerous play and adventure for the U.S. and the ROK to resort to the armed demonstration before the DPRK,” said Kim who warned that North Korea condemned the U.S. and South Korean actions and was open to all possibilities in demonstrating its deterrence.

On Saturday, carrier Ronald Reagan together with cruiser USS Robert Smalls (CG-62) left Guam following a three-day port visit according to a Navy release. The two ships arrived in Guam on Wednesday, following the Reagan CSG wrapping up participation in Exercise Valiant Shield 2024 which ended on June 18. The carrier deployed on May 16 for its last Indo-Pacific patrol as the Forward Deployed Naval Force–Japan (FDNF-J) aircraft carrier before returning to the United States later this year with USS George Washington (CVN-76) replacing it in Japan.

On Friday, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) together with U.S. Navy destroyer USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) conducted the Japan-U.S. bilateral exercise Noble Raven 24-2 in the waters around Guam where both ships carried out tactical drills together according to JMSDF release on Monday. Izumo together with destroyer JS Haguro (DDG-180) and submarine JS Jingei (SS-515) had earlier taken part in the Valiant Shield 2024 exercise. Izumo, Haguro and destroyer JS Ariake (DD-109) form the 2nd surface unit of the JMSDF’s Indo-Pacific Deployment 2024 mission, the JMSDF’s annual regional presence and engagement deployment.

In the Eastern Pacific, carrier Carl Vinson is currently making its way to Hawaii to participate in the RIMPAC 2024 exercise according to Navy imagery released on Saturday. USNI had earlier reported that the carrier had left on June 12 from San Diego and in April on the carrier’s planned participation in RIMPAC 2024 where it will lead a multinational CSG in the drills. Heading to Hawaii for RIMPAC 2024 also is amphibious warship USS Germantown (LSD-42) transporting nearly 300 Marines from the 15th Marine Expedition Unit (MEU) based out of Camp Pendleton to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam according to a navy release.

The 15th MEU is currently deployed in a disaggregated construct with some of its elements embarked on amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Somerset (LPD-25) in the Indo-Pacific while the remaining portions of the MEU are in the United States though Somerset is now making its way to Hawaii to participate in RIMPAC 2024.

The failure of its rudder and roller bearings caused amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4) to abort an Indo-Pacific deployment in April where it would also carry embarked elements of the 15th MEU while the MEU’s MV-22 Ospreys of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165 (Reinforced) are now working their way to operational certification following the lifting of a grounding of all Ospreys on March 8 that was put in place in November last year when a USAF CV-22B Osprey crashed off Japan. The 15th MEU has been using CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters as part of VMM-165 (Rein.) for its Indo-Pacific deployment due to the absence of the Ospreys.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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