The United States Navy is set to conduct a massive multi-carrier naval exercise in the Western Pacific starting on November 11.
The massive wargames, which will include no less than three 100,000-ton Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and their accompanying strike groups, will run through November 14.
While the exercise is no doubt designed to be a signal to North Korea, it is almost certainly also designed to send the People’s Republic of China a message. Such a multi-carrier battle force just the type of grouping the U.S. Navy might use in an intervention against China in the event of a conflict with Taiwan, which Beijing views as a rogue province.
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"It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three," U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift, said in a statement .
"Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex, and this exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet's unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region."
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The three carriers, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Nimitz (CVN 68), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and their strike groups will conduct coordinated operations in international waters “to demonstrate the U.S. Navy's unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups as a coordinated strike force effort.”
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During the exercise, the strike force will conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers and other training.
“This is the first time that three carrier strike groups have operated together in the Western Pacific since exercises Valiant Shield 2006 and 2007 off the coast of Guam,” reads a U.S. Navy statement.
“Both exercises focused on the ability to rapidly bring together forces from three strike groups in response to any regional situation.”
Speaking at NATO headquarters on November 9, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not directly address if the presence of such a massive force in the Western Pacific might result in a miscalculation on the part of North Korea.
“I don't suppose to read the dictator's mind. However, the message to North Korea has been consistently sent by the international community, by the United Nations Security Council in unanimous Security Council resolutions, sanctioning their activity,” Mattis said .
“Their activity had been condemned by NATO, by European Union. I can go on. This is a diplomatically led and, certainly, economic sanctions—reinforced effort to either isolate them and reduce their economic situation, or they can come to the negotiating table. And everything we do is inside that diplomatic framework.”
Thus far, there seems to be no progress towards resolving the impasse between Washington and North Korea.
Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.