One day after NBC reported that the National Security Council had presented Trump with three options vis-a-vis North Korea, namely i) put American nukes in South Korea , ii) kill Kim Jong-un or iii) use the CIA to infiltrate North Korea to sabotage or take out key infrastructure, a US carrier group has departed Singapore and is headed for North Korea.
According to Reuters, a U.S. Navy strike group will be moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula, a U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday, as concerns grow about North Korea's advancing weapons program. The strike group, called Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and will make its way from Singapore toward the Korean peninsula.
The move of the USS Carl Vinson "is in response to recent North Korean provocations", an official told CNN. "We feel the increased presence is necessary," the official said, citing North Korea's worrisome behavior."
Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, directed the USS Carl Vinson strike group to sail north to the Western Pacific after departing Singapore on Saturday, Pacific Command announced.
The Vinson strike group will operate in the Western Pacific rather than executing previously planned port visits to Australia, Pacific Command said. The group will remain under the operational control of the Third Fleet.
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."
At the end of March, satellite images collected by 38 North suggested that North Korea was actively preparing for a nuclear test.
Late last week, President 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 U.S. 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 neighbor
Last weekend, Trump told the FT in an interview, that "if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will."
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. Then again, nobody thought that Trump would launch a cruise missile strike against Syria less than a week after Rex Tillerson said Assad's fate lies with his people and not some foreign aggressor.
In other words, as we predicted yesterday, "with Syria down, it's now North Korea's turn." Considering recent developments, Kim Jong-Un would be well advised to keep a lower profile for the next few weeks.
Finally, for a real-time breakdown of where US Carrier and amphibious ready groups can be found at this moment, here is a handy map courtesy of Stratfor.