Carrier Enterprise Returns to Pacific After 17 years

USS Enterprise
USS Enterprise

The USS Enterprise, a U.S. Atlantic Fleet aircraft carrier, steamed into the Asia-Pacific region for the first time in 17 years earlier this month, the military said Wednesday.

The move is in response to a Pentagon policy - first publicly articulated in February - to boost the number of aircraft carriers the U.S. military has operationally available in the Pacific.

Military officials stressed the Enterprise's presence has nothing to do with North Korea's test-firing last week of a long-range missile into the Sea of Japan or other recent events.

U.S. military officials said they could not confirm a report by the Seoul-based Yonhap news agency that the Enterprise would be calling on the South Korean port of Busan for four days starting next Tuesday.

"We don't generally talk about port visits in advance. However, it wouldn't be uncommon for an aircraft carrier to visit any of the ports in the Western Pacific," said Capt. Jeff Alderson, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command.

Alderson said it was not unusual for U.S. aircraft carriers to call on South Korean ports.

The last was the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, which pulled into Busan in March 2004.

The Norfolk, Va.-based Enterprise last traveled to Pacific waters in 1989, said Jon Yoshishige, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The Pentagon's most recent Quadrennial Defense Review report said the military planned to make six of its 12 aircraft carriers operationally available in the Pacific in response to increased trade and sea traffic in the region.

When considering the scheduled retirement of the Kitty Hawk in 2008, and accounting for aircraft carriers undergoing regular maintenance, the policy means the Navy plans to be using most of its aircraft carriers in the Pacific.

By audrey mcavoy
associated press