- US Navy has no plans to send additional aircraft carriers near the Korean Peninsula, according to a report.
- That could mean that it is not immediately preparing for an imminent war with North Korea.
- US might eschew carriers and deploy other strategic assets such as nuclear powered submarines near the Korean Peninsula.
- US and South Korea are set to hold their major annual combined drills later in August.
Current deployment of US aircraft carriers does not seem to indicate preparations for an armed conflict with North Korea – in spite of the heightened rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, and simmering tensions on the Korean Peninsula, a report indicates.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has just warned the regime of Kim Jong-un not to invite its own destruction, while earlier this week US President Donald Trump’s threatened that the North Korean regime will face “fire and fury” if it kept presenting itself as a menace.
US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster declared the United Stated was prepared to wage a “preventive war” against North Korea if that was to be deemed necessary.
North Korea’s military has reacted angrily by stating its preparedness to “contain” the US bases on the Pacific island of Guam with missile strikes.
At the end of last week, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions on North Korea – the single largest sanctions package on it so far – because of the recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests of the Kim Jong-un regime.
North Korea’s regime condemned the newly imposed UN sanctions, while refusing to negotiate over its nuclear weapons and vowing to make the US “pay a price” for its “hostility.”
At the end of July, North Korea test-fired an improved intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a Hwasong-14, that could strike the US mainland, purportedly, as far east as Chicago.
That was the second missile alleged to be an ICBM to be tested by the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after on July 4, it carried out a ballistic missile test, and claimed that the rocket was the much coveted intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korea has also threatened that it would carry out a nuclear strike “at the heart of the United States” if the US attempted a regime change in Pyongyang, after recent hints to that end by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
North Korea’s latest missile test was its 13th (and tenth successful one) since US President Donald Trump assumed office in January.
A US nuclear expert has warned that Kim Jong-un might be coming closer to being able to produce a hydrogen bomb, also known as thermonuclear weapon, as it is able to produce tritium, a key element.
The US State Department has announced a ban on all Americans from traveling to North Korea following the death of US college student Otto Warmbier who passed away in June 2017 after 17 months in North Korean captivity.
Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson adopted a markedly conciliatory tone towards the regime of Kim Jong-un, assuring that the US sought no regime change in North Korea, and that it was not the communist country’s enemy.
Later, however, the US State Department complained international media had misreported Tillerson’s remarks, and declared that talks with North Korea were possible only if the regime in Pyongyang made clear its preparedness to give up its nuclear weapons.
The US, Japan, and South Korea have agreed that the latest developments in North Korea posed a “new-phase” security threat, while US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared their position in favor of a tougher response.
‘Not Easy Decision’
Despite heightened military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the US Navy has no plan yet to send another aircraft carrier here, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Thursday, citing informed sources.
The sources in question responded to local news reports that the United States seemed to be pushing for rare dual-carrier operations near Korea in August because of North Korea’s repeated intercontinental ballistic missile launches and war threats.
The forward-deployed flattop, the USS Ronald Reagan, has just returned to its home port in Yokosuka, Japan, from a three-month routine patrol.
“There’s no plan for the deployment of another aircraft carrier in the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula this month,” a defense source said, dismissing the reports that the US is expected to send the USS Carl Vinson, homeported in San Diego, to the region in August.
Another source said it’s “not an easy decision” to transfer such a carrier with thousands of crew members and dozens of warplanes on board.
According to the source, the USS Nimitz can be a more realistic alternative for a brief regional deployment if needed.
The US has 11 supercarriers in active service to cover the global theaters. Presently nine of them are operational as the two others are going through regular maintenance, the source pointed out.
Observers raise the possibility that the US will instead dispatch other “strategic assets” near the Korean Peninsula such as a nuclear-powered submarine on the occasion of the major annual US-South Korean combined drills to open later this month.
The Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise is scheduled to start on August 21 for a two-week run, according to the sources.
US Forces Korea is said to be still considering whether or how to announce the plan for the exercise, largely based on a computer simulation called a war game.
One dilemma is the lack of official communication channel with the North to notify it of the training schedule in advance.
“As a matter of routine, we do not discuss the details regarding future operations. We have a longstanding and ironclad alliance with our Republic of Korea Navy partners,” said Lt. Tabitha Klingensmith, a public affairs officer at the US Naval Forces Korea.
“Both navies routinely share information to ensure the continued security of the ROK. North Korea is a volatile and dangerous threat, and we will continue to work openly with our ROK partners to counter any threat presented,” Klingensmith explained.
Earlier on Thursday, North Korea’s military confirmed its plan to fire four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the waters near Guam, which hosts some US strategic bombers and nuclear subs.
The US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis urged the North to stop any action that would “lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
He also noted that the State Department is “making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means,” adding to criticism about confusing messages from the Trump administration officials on its strategy on Pyongyang.