South Korea is to push for deploying a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and strategic bombers in the Korean peninsula in the wake of North Korea's sixth nuclear test on Sunday, 3 September. The country's defence ministry said it was assessing the situation along with its key ally, the US, in order to strongly respond to North Korea amid a series of aggressive acts.
The detonation of the powerful hydrogen bomb took place shortly after North Korea claimed it has fully developed the capability to mount a nuclear bomb on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Experts on North Korea are sceptical of this assertion.
Following the controlled nuclear blast, the South Korean defence ministry submitted a report to a top-level parliamentary committee outlining immediate plans. "We will push for the option of deploying strategic assets such as the US carrier strike group and strategic bombers after consultation with the US," said the ministry.
It said South Korean forces carried out unilateral military drills on Monday, 4 September. Simulating attacks on North Korean targets, Taurus air-to-surface guided missiles were launched from F-15K fighter jets.
South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo confirmed to lawmakers that during his recent talks with US Defence Secretary James Mattis, he had sought deployment of strategic assets led by an aircraft carrier.
"During the NSC [National Security Council] session, opinions have converged towards strengthening the military standoff rather than the Berlin initiative or dialogue," said Song.
Seoul also sees indications of Pyongyang firing yet another ICBM in the coming days. "There is a possibility that the North would fire an ICBM on a standard trajectory," said South Korea's top spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
North Korea had test-fired two ICBMs in July. This was followed by the launch of yet another long-range projectile in late August.