The visit is the first to South Korea by an American aircraft carrier since 2018. That year, the allies scaled back many of their joint military activities amid diplomatic efforts to engage with North Korea, but those talks have since stalled, and Pyongyang this month unveiled an updated law codifying its right to conduct first-use nuclear strikes to protect itself.
Questions have risen over the role the roughly 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea might play if conflict erupts over Taiwan.
Donnelly said such questions are for policymakers above him, but said that operating with like-minded allies such as South Korea is a key part of the US Navy’s efforts to maintain the regional security and stability that has existed for more than seven decades.
Officials declined to provide details of the upcoming joint drills, but said the carrier would be in port for “several days” while its crew visited Busan. Just hours after the ship docked, long lines of crewmembers formed as they took COVID-19 tests before being bused into the city.