Japanese Ships Join US Carrier En Route to Korean Peninsula

Two Japanese destroyers have joined an American aircraft carrier headed toward the Korean peninsula.

The Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left western Japan Friday to join the Carl Vinson. The vessels of the two countries began joint exercises Sunday in the Western Pacific.

The USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group, which includes a guided-missile cruiser and a guided missile destroyer, was diverted from its trip to Australia by U.S. President Donald Trump, as tensions rise in the Korean peninsula over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

It was not immediately clear how long the Japanese destroyers would sail alongside the U.S. carrier group.

The U.S. Navy says the joint exercises are routine, designed to improve combined maritime response and defense capabilities, as well as joint maneuvering proficiency.

Japan’s show of naval force reflects growing concern that North Korea could strike Japan with nuclear or chemical warheads.

Meanwhile on Sunday, North Korea said it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as two Japanese navy ships joined a U.S. carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific.

“Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a U.S. nuclear powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary.

North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday. In the past, it has marked important anniversaries with tests of its weapons.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear weapons tests, two of them last year, and has carried out a stream of ballistic missile tests, in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

North Korea’s tests have been carried out despite United Nations sanctions against them.

Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the U.S. with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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