President Donald Trump expressed hope for a free and peaceful Korea during his visit to South Korea on Nov. 7.
“Together, our nations remind the world of the boundless potential of societies that choose freedom over tyranny,” Trump said at a state dinner in Seoul on Tuesday.
At the same time, Trump sent a message of strength in the face of North Korea’s threats to use nuclear weapons.
“You know we sent three of the largest aircraft carriers in the world, and they’re right now positioned. We have a nuclear submarine also positioned,” Trump said.
The United States is deploying three aircraft carrier strike groups to the western Pacific in the coming days.
The aircraft carriers, the USS Nimitz, the Ronald Reagan, and the Theodore Roosevelt, along with their accompanying warships, will take part in navy drills. It’s the first time three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups have exercised together in the region in a decade.
The United States has sharply increased its military assets in the region in recent months after North Korea threatened to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. mainland and South Korea and Japan.
A Japanese destroyer, the Inazuma, will join the armada, two Japanese government officials said, following a separate three-day exercise with the Reagan and two Indian warships in the Sea of Japan that ended Monday.
Military expert Tim Huxley, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the presence of the U.S. carriers still sent an unmistakable message, with each one carrying around 70 aircraft.
“Beyond the capability to project military power at great range, their ability to project political and psychological power is arguably unmatched, and we are seeing that play out,” said Huxley.
Carrier commanders say the strike groups are kept combat-ready at all times, with jet fighters and surveillance planes taking off constantly from their flight decks to maintain a protective screen.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that Trump had reaffirmed to him America’s ironclad commitment to defend The Republic of Korea.
“Against escalating nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, we reaffirmed our principle that we must maintain a strong stance toward North Korean threats based on overwhelming superiority of power,” Moon said.
Trump said that South Korea will be buying “a lot” of military equipment from the United States.
“We make the finest equipment in the world … There’s nobody that comes close, whether it’s the planes, the missiles, the ships,” Trump said.
“And we appreciate your big purchase orders for military equipment,” he added.
Besides the pressing North Korea issue, Trump is keeping a priority on trade during his five-country trip to Asia.
While visiting Japan on Sunday and Monday, Trump said that he will require U.S. allies to buy American-made military equipment.
He said that on the one hand, this means that they will buy the best equipment. On the other hand, they will help reduce the trade deficits that the United States has with their countries, and help to create jobs in America.
“Your military is becoming very strong,” Trump said.
During his visit, Trump also sought to highlight the distinction between an oppressive North Korea and a free South Korea.
Following the withdrawal of Japanese troops after World War II, the Soviets took over North Korea and installed a communist regime.
Kim Il Sung, who was trained by the red army, became the first leader of the Korean Workers’ Party in 1948. The country has since seen decades of unprecedented poverty and suffering. To date, most North Koreans lack access to basic necessities and millions have died over the years from famine.
South Korea, meanwhile, which was under control of U.S. troops following World War II, has flourished as a free and democratic country, becoming one of the most prosperous nations in the region.
“Here in South Korea, the people built a free, sovereign, and democratic republic. Through their resilience and sacrifice and determination, they became the chief architects of the future,” Trump said during the state dinner in Seoul.
Reuters contributed to this article.