US carrier strike force moves toward Korean peninsula
Reuters is reporting that the U.S. Navy is sending a carrier strike group toward the Korean peninsula in response to the growing threat from North Korea.
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and several support ships were diverted from a scheduled deployment near Australia to show the flag in Korean waters as a warning to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
"We feel the increased presence is necessary," the official said, citing North Korea's worrisome behavior.
In a statement late Saturday, the U.S. Navy's Third Fleet said the strike group had been directed to sail north, but it did not specify the destination. The military vessels will operate in the Western Pacific rather than making previously planned port visits to Australia, it added.
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.
Kim thrives on such confrontations, as they help him appear to be a player on the world stage. The problem is that the unbalanced North Korean leader may seek a confrontation at sea. The North Korean navy has little in the way of a surface fleet but has several submarines that, while posing little threat to the carrier group, might be used by Kim to make a point about North Korean sovereignty. There is also the possibility that during routine carrier operations, the North Korean air force might will its presence felt.
Unless Kim does something radically stupid, the Navy is not likely to see any action. Meanwhile, lessons from the bombing in Syria are not lost on the North Korean leader.
A message has been delivered. Is Kim listening?