Russian, Chinese ships shadowing American carrier group off Korean peninsula

As if things weren't dicey enough in Korean waters with an American carrier group looming off the coast of North Korea ready to strike if Kim makes a provocative move, Russian and Chinese intelligence ships are also in the area, apparently keeping an eye on the Americans.

Associated Press:

China and Russia have dispatched intelligence-gathering vessels from their navies to chase the USS Carl Vinson nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which is heading toward waters near the Korean Peninsula, multiple sources of the Japanese government revealed to The Yomiuri Shimbun.

It appears that both countries aim to probe the movements of the United States, which is showing a stance of not excluding military action against North Korea. The Self-Defense Forces are strengthening warning and surveillance activities in the waters and airspace around the area, according to the sources.

The aircraft carrier strike group, composed of the Carl Vinson at its core with guided-missile destroyers and other vessels, is understood to be around the East China Sea and heading north toward waters near the Korean Peninsula.

China and Russia, which prioritize stability in the Korean Peninsula, showed concern over the tough U.S. stance, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying the issue should be resolved peacefully through political and diplomatic efforts.

The dispatch of the intelligence-gathering vessels appears to be partly aimed at sending a warning signal to the United States.

Following the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founding father, on April 15, North Korea will celebrate the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its military on April 25. It maintains the stance that it intends to conduct its first nuclear test since September last year, which would be its sixth test, and test-launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Russian and Chinese ships keeping an eye on the American carrier is not necessarily provocative – unless they get too close for comfort.  There isn't much chance of a confrontation, although the possibility of accidents happening cannot be dismissed.

The fact is, "political and diplomatic efforts" to convince North Korea to halt its aggressive and provocative nuclear and ICBM programs have been tried for the last 20 years and failed.  Besides, Russia and China are not disinterested players.  They may not like the idea of a nuclear-armed North Korea, but they approve of using the Kim regime as a way to keep the U.S. off balance in the region.  North Korea as a nuclear wild card does not threaten the interests of either China or Russia.  But it does worry Washington, which suits them just fine.

The their gamesmanship is moving into dangerous territory.  The U.S. is trying to impress on both powers the extraordinary seriousness with which we take the North Korean threat.  The window to take action to prevent the North from achieving the capability of launching missile strikes against U.S. allies is rapidly closing.  Do we allow a murderous, paranoid regime to have that capability?  Or do we do something about it?

President Trump says China wants to help rein in the North Korean nuclear program.  Just how helpful will the Chinese be in this effort?  If they want a peaceful solution to the crisis, they are going to have to do a lot more than what they have previously shown.