By Tony Capaccio / Bloomberg News
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy has three aircraft carriers and their assorted missile-carrying vessels deployed to the western Pacific Ocean for the first time in a decade as tensions with North Korea remain high and President Donald Trump prepares to depart for Asia next week.
The milestone was reached Wednesday when the USS Nimitz and its strike group entered the Western Pacific region after operating in the Middle East, according to a Navy press release. The USS Theodore Roosevelt strike group, including a cruiser and three destroyers, entered the region Oct. 23, joining the USS Ronald Reagan.
The high-profile deployments are part of a larger build-up. In addition to the aircraft carrier strike groups, capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Navy announced Oct. 13 that the USS Michigan — one of the service’s four specialized submarines for carrying as many as 66 Navy SEAL commandos and 154 Tomahawks — arrived in Busan, South Korea.
“U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Groups routinely deploy to the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean,” according to a service statement. “These deployments are part of a previously planned deployment cycle and it is not uncommon for incoming and outgoing carrier strike group transit timing to overlap as one begins a deployment the other concludes.”
Still, it’s a rare occurrence to have three battle groups in the Western Pacific at once. The last time the Navy had a similar deployment was in August 2007, when the USS John C. Stennis, USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk participated in the Valiant Shield exercise, according to the service.