US Sends Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group toward Korean Peninsula over Tensions with North Korea

A handout photo made available by the US Navy on 09 April 2017 showing the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) participate in a photo exercise with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers in the Philippine Sea 28 March 2017. Photo: MCS 3rd class Matt Brown/US Navy/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • US has directed a carrier strike group towards the Korean Peninsula for potential action against North Korea.
  • Redeployment of the carrier group provides US President Trump with more military options on North Korea.
  • Move is said to be designed to send a message to the North Korean regime and US allies in East Asia.
  • Trump Administration is said to be ‘pleased’ with the US Navy after last weeks limited missile strike on the Syrian regime over its use of chemical weapons.
  • Potential US strike against the North Korean regime threatens the risk of an all-out regional war on the Korean Peninsula.

The United States has redirected its Carl Vinson carrier strike group towards the Korean Peninsula amid heightened tensions with the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The move comes just days after North Korea carried out its latest ballistic missile test on April 4, which was its third successful missile test, fourth overall, since the new US Administration of President Donald Trump took office in late January.

North Korea’s military moves are seen as provocations by the United States and its ally South Korea, leading the US to cancel unofficial talks with the North Koreans. The US has also begun deploying a THAAD missile shield in South Korea.

Toward the Korean Peninsula

The US Pacific Command announced that it had canceled a planned carrier exercises and port visits in Australia and redirected the Carl Vinson carrier strike group to the waters off the Korean Peninsula.

“Admiral Harry Harris, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, has directed the Carl Vinson Strike Group to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific Ocean after departing Singapore April 8,” the release of the US Navy said.

“Carl Vinson Strike Group, including Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), will operate in the Western Pacific rather than executing previously planned port visits to Australia,” it explained.

Deployed from San Diego, California, to the Western Pacific since Jan. 5, the Strike Group has participated in numerous bilateral exercises with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and Republic of Korea Navy, various maritime security initiatives, and routine patrol operations in the South China Sea.

Announcing carrier movements in advance is rare, and generally done to send a clear message, The Navy Times noted.

The US Pacific Command’s release does not specifically mention North Korea, but two defense officials told The Navy Times on Sunday the move was designed to send a message to North Korea and to increasingly nervous allies such as Japan and South Korea that the US was prepared to defend them.

“It’s designed to send a message to our allies and all the nations in the region. With Vinson comes a lot of options for leadership,” one of the officials is quoted as saying.

In this file photo, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) operates in the South China Sea in March. Photo: U.S. Navy/MC2 Z.A. Landers

‘Pleased’ with the US Navy

Experts warn North Korea’s ballistic missile tests show it is getting closer to its goal of producing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can strike the US mainland.

North Korea’s regime is also working on developing solid-state rocket fuel that can enable a launch with very short notice.

Because of that the Trump administration has been floating the possibility of preemptive strikes, but China has urged the US to negotiate directly with Kim’s government to convince it to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile development.

The Navy Times comments that the Administration of US President Donald Trump is “pleased” with the US Navy and the US Department of Defense after its Friday’s limited missile strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the use  of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria’s Idlib province.

It is reported that US President Trump views North Korea as the biggest threat to peace in the world, and several officials who have spoken to Navy Times in recent weeks said the Pentagon and US Pacific Command have been updating their plans for military strikes against North Korea.

However, any US strike on North Korea’s regime carries a number of risks: first and foremost, a nuclear attack by the regime against US allies South Korea and Japan, or, if the US strike manages to eliminate the North Korean nuclear capabilities, an artillery attack against the South Korean capital  Seoul, or even an all-out invasion of South Korea by the North.

China’s reaction would also be crucial given that the Chinese leadership has helped keep the Kim regime in power in North Korea.

A limited US strike on a North Korean missile before it launches or shooting down a missile after it launches and while its still in the boost phase is seen by some experts an option that has the potential to impact Kim’s decision making without triggering a wider conflict.

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