US nuclear-powered warship USS Ronald Reagan has joined the South Korean naval fleet off for a once-in-a-decade international fleet review in waters off the southern island of Jeju.
The warship, which was based in Japan’s Yokosuka, joined some 40 other warships and more than 20 aircraft in waters off the southern island of Jeju on Thursday.
For the international fleet review, the US deployed a total of three warships, including two cruisers, Chancellorsville and Antietam.
The aircraft’s entry, however, was interrupted as hundreds of demonstrators in kayaks paddled out to the sea to protest the naval event, which is to last till Sunday.
Apart from the US and South Korea, Australia, Canada, Brunei and India have also participated in the review.
The event, which is said to be designed to promote trust and cooperation among world navies, is a source of concern for North Korea, which has constantly been calling for the US military to leave the region.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who attended the event on Thursday, touched on the issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, saying both Pyongyang and Seoul had “begun a journey toward complete denuclearization and lasting peace.”
Though the two Koreas technically remain at war as the Korean War ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty, Moon said, “The Korean Peninsula is in a ceasefire.”
He has been pushing to formally end the Korean War, through the three bilateral summits he had with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in which the two agreed to end their hostility and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
His government was also considering lifting a broad trade and investment embargo imposed on the North in 2010, but the move provoked a quick response from US President Donald Trump, who said Seoul could “do nothing without our approval.”
The South Korean minister for unification, Cho Myoung-gyon, said later that “no detailed consideration” had been given to removing the sanctions.
Trump made the blunt remarks to keep squeezing Pyongyang, though he had earlier said “incredible” progress had been made in bilateral talks with the North and that he was ready to meet Kim for a second time very soon.
Trump and Kim met for the first time in June in a summit Singapore, where they agreed to work toward denuclearization. Thus far, the North has been taking several steps toward the goal, including the suspension of missile and nuclear tests, while the American side has taken no moves in return.
Kim, who had also agreed to allow the inspectors into North Korea last month, said he was prepared to permanently dismantle his country’s main nuclear site at Yongbyon, but only if the US took “corresponding steps” to build trust.
The least step Washington could take to build trust appears to be comprehensive sanctions relief, according to analysts.