US Navy strike group heads towards Korea

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its task force, seen here in the Philippine Sea recently, are headed towards Korea. (Photo via US Navy)

WASHINGTON/SINGAPORE – A US Navy strike group will be moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula, as concerns grow about North Korea’s advancing weapons programme.

Earlier this month North Korea tested a liquid-fuelled Scud missile which only travelled a fraction of its range.

The strike group, called Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and will make its way towards the Korean peninsula from Singapore, according to the official, who was not authorised to speak to the media and requested anonymity.

The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group departed Singapore after it arrived on April 4 during a port visit.

“US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson strike group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” spokesman Dave Benham said Sunday.

“Third Fleet ships operate forward with a purpose: To safeguard US interests in the Western Pacific. The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilising programme of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”

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 US 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 US 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 neighbour.

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.

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