U.S. carrier in Yokosuka

Kyodo

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson made a port call Saturday at the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The call by the 91,487-ton vessel is the first to the base by a U.S. nuclear carrier since September 1997, when the USS Nimitz docked.

Capt. Richard Wren said the Carl Vinson will act as a deterrent in the region while another U.S. carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk, undergoes repairs.

The Kitty Hawk returned Tuesday to its home port in Yokosuka from the Persian Gulf, where it was involved in the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The Carl Vinson will anchor offshore for several days. Observers say the aircraft carrier, deployed around Japan while the Kitty Hawk was in the Middle East, will likely stay in the region as the U.S. remains vigilant to the threat posed by North Korea.

Fearing accidents and excessive noise from aircraft, the Kanagawa Prefectural Government has requested that the U.S. military not fly aircraft aboard the carrier to the U.S. Atsugi base in the prefecture.

But Rear Adm. Evans Chanik, who leads the Carl Vinson battle group, told reporters he may fly aircraft to the base to transfer personnel and goods.

A local civic group protested the arrival of the vessel, saying the visit is a strategic move on the part of the U.S. military to make the base a home port for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The U.S. military allowed Japanese reporters aboard the Carl Vinson on Friday and Saturday.