US Navy aircraft carriers operate off Korean Peninsula

Trump with children in China

The US administration thinks China's economic leverage over North Korea is the key to strong-arming Pyongyang into halting its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

"The future of this region and its handsome people must not be held hostage to a dictator's twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail", he said during a speech in Vietnam to the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

In the first comments on Mr Trump's visit by a North Korean official, a Pyongyang foreign ministry spokesman said it was a "warmonger's visit for confrontation to rid" North Korea of its self-defensive nuclear deterrence, the state-run KCNA news agency reported.

North Korea has dominated Trump's trip, which has so far swept in Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam.

Trump had also delivered a sharp warning to North Korea in a speech at South Korea's parliament on Wednesday, telling the country: "Do not underestimate us".

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Trump will attend a state banquet on Saturday before a welcoming and deal-signing ceremony on Sunday morning.

The four-day exercise in the western Pacific involves USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt - as well as seven South Korean vessels, including three destroyers.

The US and South Korea on Saturday started joint naval exercises that will involve three US aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea.

This is the first time three carrier strike groups will operate together since 2007 during an exercise off the coast of Guam, according to the Navy.

The exercise comes after the two countries agreed in talks between their respective defense ministers last month to expand the rotational deployment of US strategic military assets to the Korean Peninsula to better cope with North Korean provocations.

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South Korea's Sejong the Great Aegis destroyer trains with three US aircraft carriers in the East Sea on November 12, 2017, in this photo provided by the Navy.

In recent months, North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the US mainland with further development and has conducted its most powerful nuclear test.

At the meeting, the two countries agreed to deepen their cooperation on North Korea and to hold a trilateral summit with South Korea at the earliest possible date.

It has repeatedly threatened to launch ballistic missiles into the waters around the USA territory of Guam.

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