BUSAN, South Korea, July 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS George Washington on Friday arrived in South Korea's southern port city of Busan for a five-day port call ahead of a joint maritime exercise with South Korean battleships.
The 97,000-ton super-carrier, which was on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, has about 6,000 sailors assigned to its ships, including embarked battle staffs, a carrier air wing and ship's company personnel, the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said.
The nuclear-powered super-carrier, forward-deployed to the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, is capable of loading some 70 units of strike fighter Super Hornet, anti-submarine helicopter Sea Hawk and early warning aircraft Hawk Eye.
"Port visit to Busan is aimed to build friends and goodwill with the Korean people," said Captain Greg Fenton, commanding officer of the U.S. Navy's forward deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington on Friday, adding that the visit also demonstrates the United States' commitment to its alliance.
The GWCSG will participate in eight community relations events, including assisting senior citizens and orphans and sports events with local children and clubs. It will also hold ship tour and welcome reception for Korean business, civic and military leaders, according to the USS George Washington's public affairs office.
However, tensions were feared to escalate as from July 16 to 21, the USS George Washington will reportedly stage a joint maritime exercise with South Korean battleships in southern and southwestern waters of the Korean Peninsula, which may irritate the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The USS should also count down for its patrol mission in the western Pacific.
It is has been officially announced that the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier will come over and replace USS George Washington in the summer of 2015, with most of the crew of the George Washington to be transferred over to USS Reagan.
"I fully expect as I know that the Ronald Reagan will step up again without missing a bit and carry out our mission excellently here in our 7th fleet," Captain Greg Fenton told Xinhua.
Due to the tight budget, some Pentagon officials and congressmen have suggested to cancel the USS George Washington's mid-life, 3.5 billion U.S. dollars refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) and instead make early retirement of the carrier.
Decommissioning of the carrier George Washington would also decline the number of active aircraft carriers in the Navy fleet from 11 to 10.
The nuclear-powered super-carrier was commissioned in 1992 and sent to the Japanese naval base in 2008.