The Navy has announced that the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group has canceled exercises and scheduled port calls and is headed to Korean waters:
The head of all U.S. forces in the Pacific canceled a planned carrier exercises and port visits in Australia and redirected the Carl Vinson carrier strike group to the waters off the Korean Peninsula as the U.S. weighs a series of limited options for dealing with an increasingly unbalanced and dangerous North Korean regime.
In a release Saturday afternoon, U.S. Pacific Command announced the cancellation and redeployment of Vinson. Announcing carrier movements in advance is rare, and generally done to send a clear message.
“Admiral Harry Harris, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, has directed the Carl Vinson Strike Group to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific Ocean after departing Singapore April 8,” the release said.
“Carl Vinson Strike Group, including Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), will operate in the Western Pacific rather than executing previously planned port visits to Australia.”
Chris Wallace asked H. R. McMaster about that deployment today:
WALLACE: …Did President Xi give any indication that he now takes President Trump statement more seriously that if China doesn’t act to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, that he, President Trump, will? Did you get the sense that they were taking that more seriously, and also we learned this morning that a U.S. carrier strike force is on its way to the Korean Peninsula, why?
MCMASTER: Well, it is such a privilege to be part of this national security team and help enable this team for the president as national security advisor. It’s really extraordinary. I think the degree of concurrent activity that was going on this week and nobody really even broke a sweat over it. I mean, we have extraordinarily competent people in these positions who are providing the president with options and then can — then have this amazing military that we have that can execute those decisions of the president flawlessly.
And so, it was, I think, maybe a bit surprising to the guests here about how really no one was really even stressed out or anything about the need to conduct this operation in the wake of this murderous attack. And I think the summit was extremely successful, because it met the first objective, which is to allow the president and Premier Xi to build a relationship that they can use to identify areas of cooperation and to advance really our mutual interests, but American interest in particular. These are key areas.
WALLACE: And I’m running out of time. So, I’ve got to ask you sort of lightning round — quick questions, quick answers.
Why the carrier strike force to the Korean Peninsula?
MCMASTER: Well, it’s prudent to do it, isn’t it? I mean, North Korea has been engaged in a pattern of provocative behavior. This is — this is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear capable regime, and President Xi and President Trump agreed that that is unacceptable, that what must happen is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And so, the president has asked to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat the American people and to our allies and partners in the region.
What is missing from this statement is that we have exercises underway in that region with Japanese and Korea navy combatants, so the Vinson will join a significant naval presence. What is unmentioned is that we probably have at least two fast attack submarines already on station.
The public nature of the deployment suggests it is done as a counterpoint to Kim Jong Un’s bluster about preparing for war. In the past, we’ve tended to ignore him. He can’t escape the obvious linkage of a very warm summit between Trump and Xi, mutual talk about how he shouldn’t have nukes, and the Carl Vinson and her consorts heading his way.
Now we will see if he ups the ante. There are three things to look for: 1) more missile launches by the DPRK, 2) a new nuclear test (it is speculated that one is in the works and the Vinson’s arrival would be a great time to do it), and 3) some military provocation directed at South Korea. Kim can’t be happy that the ROK military practiced a decapitation strike, South Korea public opinion is trending in favor of the ROK possessing its own nukes, and the ROK is in political disarray at the moment due to the impeachment of the president. In the past they have shelled South Korean towns, taking South Korean fishermen prisoner and even torpedoed a ROK destroyer. He won’t let this go by.