According to the Pentagon, the U.S. Carl Vinson Strike Group made up of an aircraft carrier and several missile destroyers and missile cruisers has been deployed towards the Korean peninsula.
This U.S. action could be seen as a response to North Korea’s intensified missile and nuclear threats. North Korea has conducted five ballistic missiles tests in 2017 alone. The ballistic missiles fired by North Korea in 2017 range from an intermediate-range Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile to extended-ranged US-targeting missiles.
Facing the nuclear threats posed by North Korea, President Donald Trump has said, “the U.S. is prepared to act alone to deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea.” The U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham also stated that North Korea has been considered the U.S.’s primary threat in the Asia-Pacific region because of “its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing” missile and nuclear programs.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests thus far. According to the Australian, North Korea is possibly preparing for its sixth nuclear test this year. Simultaneously, North Korea seems to be preparing to test its first intercontinental missile. With that capability, the U.S. and Australia could finally fall into the North Korea’s missile ranges. North Korea possessing the ability to launch intercontinental missiles is extremely dangerous to the world as the nation has become more unpredictable and provocative in recent years.
According to President Trump’s national security adviser HR McMaster, President Trump has asked: “to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat [to] the American people and to our allies and partners in the region.” Early in April 2017, President Trump directly stated that the U.S. will act unilaterally to deal with the nuclear threats posed by North Korea with or without China.
Interestingly, China’s rhetoric on the deployment of the Carl Vinson Strike Group to the Korean Peninsula was not harsh. According to China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference on 10 April 2017, China does not oppose the deployment of the U.S. naval strike group, however, it urges that all parties “exercise restraint and avoid activities that may escalate the tension.”
As for North Korea, the regime sees the continuing missile and nuclear tests even as increasingly necessary following the U.S. air strike in Syria last week. As reported by VOA, an unidentified North Korean official stated that the airstrikes in Syria were “absolutely unpardonable,” and the airstrikes further justified North Korea’s possession and development of its nuclear arsenals.
Security Dilemma In Action
The new developments on the Korean Peninsula reflect the deepening effects of the security dilemma between different parties in the region. Constant military acquisitions are required for both North and South Korea to maintain a certain level of strategic balance. Since the 1970s, nuclear weapons have become the only option for North Korea to minimize the gap between its out-dated military forces and the modernized defense forces of South Korea. In addition, nuclear weapons are also required to minimize the nuclear threats posed by the U.S. nuclear umbrella over South Korea.
The provocations of North Korea have triggered responses by South Korea, and the U.S. In March 2017, after North Korea tested four ballistic missiles, the U.S. started deploying the THAAD missile defense system into South Korea. Although the purpose of the THAAD system is debatable, the deployment of THAAD can be considered a direct response to North Korea’s continuing nuclear aggressions.
North Korea has not backed down and, in fact, conducted three more missile tests following the installation of the first two land-based THAAD missile-launching vehicles. The new round of provocations has finally triggered the U.S. to deploy a naval strike group to deter North Korea’s future aggressions.
The deployment of the Carl Vinson Strike Group to the Korean Peninsula might be a feasible action to maintain stability in the region in the current context. Firstly, during the Mar-a-Lago summit and as reported by some medias, China and the U.S. made an agreement that actions need to be taken to stop North Korea’s nuclear aggressions. In this circumstance, the deployment of the Carl Vinson Strike Group may not trigger or threaten China. Secondly, the U.S. can maintain its credibility among its allies in the region. The U.S. decisive action in deterring North Korea’s future nuclear aggression could accommodate its allies. In addition, the U.S. has also proved that it is willing to provide means to defend its allies from external nuclear provocations. In this sense, the U.S. deployment of the strike group would defend the current status quo, in terms of deterring nuclear latent states to develop nuclear weapons.
Nevertheless, all the parties involved should exercise restraint as the possibility of crisis escalation still exists due to the potential miscalculation and misperception between different states.
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