(4th LD) N. Korea fires 2 SRBMs toward East Sea; U.S. aircraft carrier due in S. Korea for joint training
(ATTN: UPDATES with U.S. admiral's remarks in paras 7-9; MODIFIES dateline)
SEOUL, March 27 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) toward the East Sea on Monday, hours before a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier staged joint drills in waters south of Jeju Island, according to South Korea's military.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launches from the Chunghwa County area in North Hwanghae Province between 7:47 a.m. and 8 a.m. The missiles flew some 370 kilometers before splashing into the sea, it added.
Pyongyang's latest provocation came as South Korea and the United States kicked off the Ssangyong (double dragon) amphibious landing exercise last week. It is scheduled to end next Monday.
The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group also trained together with the South's major warships in waters south of the peninsula Monday, according to the Navy here.
The Sejong the Great destroyer, equipped with the Aegis combat system, the Choe Yeong destroyer and the Hwacheon logistics support ship were mobilized for the practice staged in international waters south of the southern island of Jeju.
"On the basis of the South Korea-U.S. alliance over the past 70 years, the South Korean and U.S. navies have established a robust combined maritime defense posture," South Korean Navy Capt. Jang Hoon was quoted as saying. "This exercise not only demonstrated the alliance's overwhelming capability and (combat) posture but also served as an opportunity to further strengthen the combined defense posture to defend the Republic of Korea."
In a press meeting aboard the carrier carrying some 70 aircraft, Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, highlighted the allies' readiness to deal with North Korean threats.
"I'm not threatened or worried about North Korea. We have a lot of capabilities that I talked about -- a lot of information sharing with the Republic of Korea and our joint force," he said.
He added, "The U.S. has deployable strategic assets at the ready on every day ... We really want to underpin the International Security and the global commons."
On Tuesday, the carrier will make a port call in Busan, 325 kilometers southeast of the capital, according to Seoul's defense ministry.
In September last year, the U.S. deployed the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier to South Korea, with the allies seeking to bolster the "extended deterrence" against the North's growing military threats.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, meanwhile, said it is aware of the North's latest ballistic missile launches.
"While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launches highlight the destabilizing impact of the DPRK's unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs," it said in a statement, using the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and weapon of mass destruction.
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