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U.S. deploys F-22 Raptors to Japan as denuclearization in doubt

By Elizabeth Shim
U.S. deploys F-22 Raptors to Japan as denuclearization in doubt
The United States has deployed F-22 Raptors to Okinawa. File Photo by Valda Kalnina

June 1 (UPI) -- The United States has deployed F-22 Raptors to Okinawa, a sign U.S. military pressure against North Korea has not eased, according to press reports.

South Korea's Channel A reported Friday the fighters were deployed ahead of the planned summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

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The F-22s are "aligned" under the new U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, according to Military.com

Kadena Air Base representatives said the deployment has been "routine" since March 2004.

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"Pacific Air Forces [Theater Security Package] deployments to the Indo-Pacific region signify a continued commitment to regional stability and security and have served as a routine and integral part of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's force posture since March 2004," the Kadena's 18th Wing stated Thursday.

The deployment is the first of its kind in four years, according to Japanese news reports, and a total of 22 units will arrive sequentially.

The aircraft come at a time when North Korea's intentions are in doubt.

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Adm. Harry B. Harris, former head of the U.S. Pacific Command and nominated U.S. ambassador to South Korea, said Tuesday North Korea poses risks.

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"North Korea remains our most imminent threat. And a nuclear-capable North Korea with missiles that can reach the United States is unacceptable," Harris said.

The Pentagon's Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said U.S.-South Korea exercises are to take place as scheduled, and the size of U.S. troops in Korea are to remain unchanged, Voice of America reported.

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McKenzie also said there is lack of transparency over whether North Korea has given up its nuclear weapons testing program.

Ongoing cargo transfers at sea, involving North Korean vessels and third-party ships, have also been ongoing, according to Japan's maritime self-defense force.

Kyodo News reported the most recent transfer took place about 155 miles off the coast of Shanghai and involved a transfer between North Korea flagged Sam Jong-2 and the Myong Ryu-1, a ship of an unknown nationality.

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