The USS George Washington left a naval base in Japan today, bound for Korean waters to carry out joint exercises with the South Korean military. US officials say that while the 4 days of military exercises set to begin on Sunday were "planned well before yesterday's unprovoked artillery attack, it demonstrates the strength of the South Korea-US alliance and our commitment to regional stability through deterrence," the BBC reports.
The nuclear-powered carrier, which has a crew of more than 6,000, took part in similar exercises with the South Korean military earlier this year. Analysts say joint US-Korean naval exercises may have provoked the North Korean regime into taking a more aggressive stance, although officials admit they are often baffled by Pyongyang's motives. "I don't know the answer to any question about North Korea that begins with the word 'why,'" Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters. (Read more North Korea stories.)