US Navy aircraft carriers operate off Korean Peninsula

US South Korea joint military drills begin in Western Pacific

Trump has repeatedly railed against the North as he urges the region to take a united front against the threat posed by the isolated nation, which has sparked global alarm with nuclear and missile tests in recent months.

South Korea and the United States on Saturday kicked off a joint naval exercise in the Sea of Japan involving three USA aircraft carriers amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The US administration thinks China's economic leverage over North Korea is the key to strong-arming Pyongyang into halting its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

The three carriers will be likely together in the drills around Monday, according to a South Korean military official, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules.

Trump had also delivered a sharp warning to North Korea in a speech at South Korea's parliament on Wednesday, telling the country: "Do not underestimate us".

The exercise comes after the two countries agreed in talks between their respective defense ministers last month to expand the rotational deployment of US strategic military assets to the Korean Peninsula to better cope with North Korean provocations.

The goal of the exercise was to demonstrate the U.S. Navy's ability to "operate multiple carrier strike groups as a coordinated strike force efforts", the navy said, adding that the three carrier strike groups will conduct training including "air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishment at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuver".

According to the U.S. Navy, it is the first three-carrier exercise in the Western Pacific since 2007.

North Korea is not known to have tested any of its missiles or nuclear devices since September 15, a relative lull after a brisk series of tests earlier this year. It also flew two new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub. And do not try us.

The North Korean spokesman, though, said nothing would strop Pyongyang from pursuing its nuclear weapons program.

President Donald Trump is exchanging school yard taunts with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

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