Seoul: A US Navy carrier strike group is headed towards the Korean peninsula as the United States strengthens its naval presence in the area in the wake of North Korea’s muscle flexing and its nuclear ambitions. The move comes after Trump Administration issued a stern warning when North Korea tested a ballistic missile in the Sea of Japan earlier this week. The threat of unilateral action became more tangible option after Trump Administration’s air attack on Syria in anticipation of a chemical attack.
“US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” Commander Dave Benham, spokesman at US Pacific Command said on Saturday.
It comes barely a day after US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had a summit meeting in Florida in which the Korean nuclear ambition was also discussed.
“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” said Benham has been quoted by news agency AFP.
Originally scheduled to make port calls in Australia, it headed instead from Singapore to the Western Pacific Ocean.
AFP has quoted unnamed US intelligence officials saying Pyongyang could be less than two years away from developing a nuclear warhead that could reach the continental United States.
The North has carried out five nuclear tests — two of them last year — and expert satellite imagery analysis suggests it could well be preparing for a sixth.
During his meeting with Xi on Thursday and Friday, President Trump pressed Pyongyang’s key ally to help curb the North’s nuclear weapons program.
Recently, the US Treasury had slapped sanctions on 11 North Korean business representatives and one company, while US politicians overwhelmingly backed a bill relisting the North as a state sponsor of terror.
North Korea responded by warning that it will retaliate if the international community makes sanctions stronger. North Korea reacted angrily saying the US was forcing the situation “to the brink of war”.
With inputs from agencies