The United States’ warships have advanced towards the Korean Peninsula in the Western Pacific Ocean as a reactive show of force due to growing concerns about North Korea’s advancing weapons program. In a statement by the US navy’s Third Fleet on Saturday, the strike group had been directed to sail north, but it did not specify the destination.
The warships strike group, named Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and, instead of following the previous plans of port visits to Australia, it will make its way from Singapore towards the Korean Peninsula.
Commander Dave Benham, spokesperson at US Pacific Command spoke to the AFP news agency and stated that the “US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific… The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and [the] pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”
Concerns have been growing as a result of nuclear testing and repeated indications by North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong-un, of an intercontinental ballistic missile test. North Korea has made it a military priority to develop a long-range missile that would be capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead. Five nuclear tests have been staged so far, with just two of these within the last year.
Al Jazeera reports that expert satellite imagery analysis suggests preparation for a sixth, and “US intelligence officials [are] warning that North Korea could be less than two years away from developing a nuclear warhead that could reach the continental US.”
The United States’ President, Donald Trump, has expressed his concern over North Korea’s increasing success in their testing. Earlier this week, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Florida, where Trump urged his counterpart to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program.
With that said, what is needed is for pre-emptive military strikes to be taken off the table. President Trump’s national security aides have completed a review of the United States’ options to try to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which is indicative of this need. Although these measures include economic and military measures, they also lean more toward sanctions and increased pressure on Beijing to rein in North Korea.