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S.Korea, U.S. launch joint maritime drills involving U.S. aircraft carrier

SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- South Korea and the United States on Monday launched their joint maritime drills near the Korean Peninsula, involving a U.S. aircraft carrier and over 20 warships from the two sides.

The South Korean defense ministry said the combined naval exercise was scheduled to continue for four days from Monday in the South Korean eastern waters.

Mobilized for the exercise will be more than 20 battleships, including a 7,600-ton Aegis destroyer and a 4,400-ton destroyer from the South Korean side as well as the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group that arrived in the South Korean southeastern port city of Busan on Friday.

The strike group consists of the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Chancellorsville guided-missile cruiser, the USS Barry Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and the USS Benfold guided-missile destroyer.

The nuclear-powered USS Annapolis submarine would reportedly join the naval exercise.

It marked the first time in about five years that a U.S. aircraft carrier visited South Korea for joint military exercises.

A variety of aircraft and choppers will join the naval drills, including F/A-18E Super Hornets, P-3 and P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, AW-159 and MH-60R helicopters, F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets and AH-64E Apache helicopters.

The combined naval forces of the two countries will stage various drills on anti-ship and anti-submarine operations, tactical maneuvers and other maritime operations.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has denounced the joint exercise as a rehearsal for a northward invasion.

The DPRK fired a short-range ballistic missile into its eastern waters Sunday, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).