In this Aug 10, 2017 file photo, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis answers questions while speaking at the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental in Mountain View, California. (JEFF CHIU / AP)
WASHINGTON - The deployment of three US aircraft carriers, which entered waters off the Korean Peninsula in a joint maritime exercise with the South Korea, was just a "normal operation" with "no big message" intended, said US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis here on Monday.
The US 7th Fleet, a part of the US Pacific Fleet, said on its website Thursday that the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt will commence three-carrier exercises in international waters in the Western Pacific over four days beginning Saturday.
Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that "this is what we normally do with allies."
According to the 7th Fleet, it is the first time since 2007 exercises near Guam that three US carrier strike groups have operated together in the Western Pacific.
Mattis said it has been 10 years since the last three-carrier exercises, adding that the United States doesn't "have an abundance of aircraft carriers" and it usually keeps them "spread out and working with allies."
The strike groups were expected to conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers and carry out other training.