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US carrier heading for Korea trains with Japanese destroyers

 In this March 15, 2017, file photo, U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, approaches Busan port in Busan, South Korea, to participate in an annual joint military exercise called Foal Eagle between South Korea and the United States. The American aircraft carrier heading toward the Korean peninsula is conducting a joint exercise with Japanese naval ships in the Philippine Sea. A U.S. Navy news release says that two Japanese destroyers joined the USS Carl Vinson carrier and two other U.S warships on Sunday, April 23, 2017, as they continued their journey north in the western Pacific Ocean. Jo Jung-ho/Yonhap via AP, File

TOKYO — An American aircraft carrier heading toward the Korean Peninsula began joint exercises Sunday with Japanese naval ships in the Philippine Sea.

Two Japanese destroyers joined the USS Carl Vinson and two other U.S. warships as they continued their journey north in the western Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.

The Vinson had canceled a scheduled visit to Australia to divert toward North Korea in a show of force, though it still conducted a curtailed training exercise with Australia before doing so. Tensions are elevated on the Korean Peninsula, with the Trump administration saying that all options are on the table, and indications that North Korea may be preparing to test a nuclear weapon or long-range missile.

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Two Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers left Sasebo port in southern Japan on Friday to join the Vinson strike group. The U.S. group also includes a guided-missile cruiser and a guided-missile destroyer.

The Navy called the exercise "routine" and said it is designed to improve combined maritime response and defense capabilities, as well as joint maneuvering proficiency.

The Vinson group has conducted three previous bilateral exercises with the Japanese navy since leaving San Diego on Jan. 5 for a western Pacific deployment. The most recent one was in March.

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