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(LEAD) With aircraft carrier, U.S. sending message to N. Korea: S. Korea

All Headlines 17:08 April 10, 2017

(ATTN: CHANGES photos; ADDS China's response at 3 paras from bottom)

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean military confirmed Monday the United States is sending a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to waters near the Korean Peninsula again due to concerns about North Korea's provocations.

The Pacific Command, based in Hawaii, announced earlier that the Carl Vinson Strike Group is on its way to the western Pacific region from Singapore, a turnaround from its initial plan to make port calls in Australia.

The strike group comprises the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser, also known for the ability to intercept ballistic missiles.

The deployment is quite unusual as the high-profile carrier visited South Korea less than a month ago.

This file photo, released by the South Korean Navy's 1st Fleet Command and dated March 22, 2017, shows South Korean and U.S. warships, including the U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Carl Vinson (C), sailing in waters off South Korea's east coast for ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint military drills aimed at improving their response to North Korea's missile launches. (Yonhap)

"The deployment seems to reflect the (U.S) perception of the seriousness of the situation on the Korean Peninsula," the defense ministry's spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said at a press briefing.

He added the move is aimed at beefing up the defense posture against North Korea's strategic provocations, such as a nuclear test and missile launches.

Asked about whether the Pentagon offered an advance notice to Seoul on the deployment plan, Moon said the allies are "cooperating on such an issue."

Responding to rumors of a war on the peninsula in April, he stressed that the South's troops stand ready to counter the North's provocations, bearing the possibility that the unpredictable Kim Jong-un regime may make a provocation on the occasion of its key political events, including the 105th birth anniversary of the North's founder Kim Il-sung to follow on April 15 and the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army on April 25.

In reaction to the strike group's deployment near the Korean Peninsula, China called on all sides to exercise restraint.

Asked about its position on the deployment, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing that China is closely watching developments on the Korean Peninsula.

"Under the current circumstances, all parties concerned should exercise restraint and refrain from doing anything that will aggravate the situation in the region," the spokeswoman said.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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