The U.S. Navy is sending the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and several support ships toward the Korean peninsula in response to the growing threat from North Korea.
The carrier group was originally scheduled to sail into the western Pacific and make port visits to Australia. But the Navy announced that the ships would sail north instead.
The strike group, called Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and will make its way from Singapore toward the Korean peninsula, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and requested anonymity.
“We feel the increased presence is necessary,” the official said, citing North Korea’s worrisome behavior.
Obviously, a message is being sent, but will the North Koreans hear it? I find the timing of the course change interesting considering that the strike on Syria was also a message that was directed partially at North Korea.
This year North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, have repeatedly indicated an intercontinental ballistic missile test or something similar could be coming, possibly as soon as April 15, the 105th birthday of North Korea’s founding president and celebrated annually as “the Day of the Sun.”
Earlier this week U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Florida, where Trump pressed his counterpart to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program.
Trump’s national security aides have completed a review of U.S. options to try to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. These include economic and military measures but lean more toward sanctions and increased pressure on Beijing to rein in its reclusive neighbor.
Although the option of pre-emptive military strikes on North Korea is not off the table, the review prioritizes less-risky steps and de-emphasizes direct military action.
Trump spoke with South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Friday, the White House said on Saturday in a statement which did not mention the strike group.
Unless Kim does something stupid like launch a missile at Japan, the Navy is not likely to see any action. But message or no message, Kim is someone who has shown he does not like to be pushed. He threatened a “merciless response” to the Seth Rogen film The Interview, which depicted an attempted assassination of the North Korean leader.
The potential for confrontation is present as the North Koreans have a fleet of submarines that may look to shadow the carrier group. They also have a fairly modern air force. If Kim wants a confrontation to give him an excuse to attack South Korea or Japan, he won’t have far to look.