The United States is sending a third aircraft carrier strike force to the western Pacific region in an apparent warning to North Korea to deter its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, two sources have told VOA.
The USS Nimitz, one of the world’s largest warships, will join two other supercarriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, in the western Pacific, the sources told VOA’s Steve Herman.
The U.S. military has rarely simultaneously deployed three aircraft carriers to the same region.
But North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is seen as a major security challenge for President Donald Trump, who has vowed to prevent the country from being able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile, a capability experts say Pyongyang could have some time after 2020.
Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said Friday just before the start of Group of Seven (G-7) meetings in Sicily that G-7 leaders would have a “particular focus on the North Korea problem.”
US Navy Show Of Might Near North Korea:
A White House statement issued Friday said the two leaders have agreed to “enhance sanctions on North Korea” in an attempt to prevent the further development of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
US tests missile defense system
The U.S. military, meanwhile, will test a system to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time next week.It is intended to simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the U.S.
The Missile Defense Agency said it will test an existing missile defense system on Tuesday to try to intercept an ICBM. The Pentagon has used the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system to intercept other types of missiles, but never an ICBM.
The GMD has been inconsistent, succeeding in nine of 17 attempts against missiles without intercontinental range capability since 1999.
The most recent test, in June 2014, was successful — but three straight subsequent tests were failures. source
North Korea’s launch on Sunday of its most-sophisticated missile yet offered new clues into how serious the country is in its nuclear ambitions
In the past three years, North Korea has launched more major missiles than in the three previous decades combined. That acceleration is one of the most dramatic signs of leader Kim Jong Un’s push to overhaul the country’s weapons program since he took power in late 2011. He has modernized production of nuclear and missile parts, upgraded the program within the military hierarchy and overtly pampered engineers, forcing Western leaders to worry more about Pyongyang’s intentions than ever before.
On Sunday, North Korea launched a newly developed intermediate-range missile, its 10th missile firing this year. Mr. Kim attended the test of the nuclear-capable missile and described it as a “perfect weapon system,” according to a state media report. Initial projections from several experts suggested it would be able to reach U.S. military forces in Guam.
Even apparent failed missile launches, like one that blew up within minutes on April 28, are now seen by independent experts as signs of North Korea’s progress. Learning from those failures would move the regime closer to its ultimate goal of mastering a long-range missile that could threaten the U.S. with nuclear attack.
North Korea warns that nuclear-armed missile can strike U.S. territory:
For decades, Mr. Kim’s father and grandfather used the country’s missile program to gain leverage in diplomatic talks and revenue from weapon exports. Technological advances came slowly. That changed when Kim Jong Il died and was succeeded by his youngest son, believed to be 33 years old.
The dictator has shown no interest in negotiating with the U.S. about the missile program, and North Korea’s nuclear ambition and skill are advancing much more quickly.
The country is conducting missile tests with the frequency needed to ensure the weapons can be reliably used in conflict. A range of recent breakthroughs has forced the U.S. and its allies to review their missile defenses.
Could North Korea trigger a nuclear war?
“Kim Jong Un very much wants to reach out and touch the homeland,” Gen. Lori Robinson, head of the U.S. Northern Command, the part of the military responsible for defending the U.S. mainland, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April.
Tackling the threat could become an early point of tension between U.S. President Donald Trump, who is trying to pressure Pyongyang into changing course, and new South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who favors diplomacy and economic engagement with North Korea. North Korea has said through state media that it has no choice but to advance its nuclear and missile development to defend itself from attack. It has said its weapons program is impervious to sanctions and is already capable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile. source
U.S. special operations forces are set to conduct operations against North Korean nuclear, missile, and other weapons of mass destruction sites in any future conflict, the commander of Special Operations Command told Congress Tuesday.
Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas stated in testimony to a House subcommittee that Army, Navy, and Air Force commandos are based both permanently and in rotations on the Korean peninsula in case conflict breaks out.
The special operations training and preparation is a warfighting priority, Thomas said in prepared testimony. There are currently around 8,000 special operations troops deployed in more than 80 countries.
North Korea says they’re ready to face the American military:
“We are actively pursuing a training path to ensure readiness for the entire range of contingency operations in which [special operations forces], to include our exquisite [countering weapons of mass destruction] capabilities, may play a critical role,” he told the subcommittee on emerging threats.
“We are looking comprehensively at our force structure and capabilities on the peninsula and across the region to maximize our support to U.S. [Pacific Command] and [U.S. Forces Korea]. This is my warfighting priority for planning and support.”
Disclosure of the commander’s comments comes as tensions remain high on the peninsula. President Trump has vowed to deal harshly with North Korea should another underground nuclear test be carried out. Test preparations have been identified in recent weeks, U.S. officials have said.
Trump said on Sunday that China appears to be pressuring North Korea but that he would be upset if North Korea carries out another nuclear test.
“If he does a nuclear test, I will not be happy,” he said on CBS Face the Nation. Asked if his unhappiness would translate into a U.S. military response, Trump said: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”
Gen. Thomas’ testimony did not include details of what missions the commandos would carry out.
A spokesman for the Special Operations Command referred questions about potential operations in Korea to the Pacific Command.
Special forces troops would be responsible for locating and destroying North Korean nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, such as mobile missiles. They also would seek to prevent the movement of the weapons out of the country during a conflict.
Special operations missions are said by military experts to include intelligence gathering on the location of nuclear and chemical weapons sites for targeting by bombers. They also are likely to include direct action assaults on facilities to sabotage the weapons, or to prevent the weapons from being stolen, or set off at the sites by the North Koreans.
A defense official said U.S. commandos in the past have trained for covert operations against several types of nuclear facilities, including reactors and research centers. Scale models of some North Korean weapons facilities have been built in the United States for practice operations by commandos.
The most secret direct action operations would be carried out by special units, such as the Navy’s Seal Team Six or the Army’s Delta Force.
Thomas said the command in January took over the role of coordinating Pentagon efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction from the Strategic Command. The mission includes stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and dealing with the aftermath of such weapons’ use.
North Korea is believed to have around 20 nuclear devices and is developing nuclear warheads small enough to be carried on long-range missiles. It also has stockpiles of chemical weapons and biological warfare agents.
Many of North Korea’s nuclear facilities are believed to be located underground in fortified locations spread around the country.
The last rotation of special operations forces to South Korea took place in February when parts of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the 75th Ranger Regiment joined South Korean troops for training.
The United States has a message for North Korea:
A great video of the US Military sending it’s most deadly message to the leadership of the North Korean Military in Military exercise. “This exercise is yet another example of the strength and resolve of the combined U.S. and the ROK naval force,” said Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander, Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group. “The U.S. and the Republic of Korea share one of the strongest alliances in the world and we grow stronger as an alliance because of our routine exercises here in South Korea and the close relationship and ties that we forge from operating at sea together.”
The training took place in mountainous parts of South Korea in a bid to simulate the rough terrain commandos would experience during operations in North Korea. Other training took place on the seas.
Gen. Thomas, in his testimony, identified North Korea as one of five “current and enduring” military threats outlined in a new military strategy produced by Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The four other threats are terrorism, Russia, Iran, and China.
Asked about the new strategy, a Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said the latest national military strategy is secret. “A classified [National Military Strategy] will make it more difficult for adversaries to develop counter-strategies and also enables the chairman to give the best military advice to the president and secretary of defense,” Navy Capt. Greg Hicks said.
The command “has recently focused more intently on the emerging threat that is of growing concern to us as well as most of our DoD teammates—the nuclear threat of an increasingly rogue North Korea,” Thomas said.
“Although previously viewed as a regional threat, North Korea’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, facilitated by a trans-regional network of commercial, military, and political connections, make it a threat with global implications,” the four-star general added.
South Korea’s special operations forces are said to be highly trained but lack the advanced equipment used by American commandos, such as stealth helicopters and aircraft as well as other high technology and advanced weaponry.
A Pentagon report on North Korea’s military published in February 2016 states that North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program.
The North Koreans announced in September 2015 that the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon including a uranium enrichment plant and a reactor that were upgraded for the purpose of building nuclear forces, the report said.
Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris said in congressional testimony last week that North Korea is an immediate threat to the security of the United States and the Asia Pacific region.
“With every test, Kim Jong Un moves closer to his stated goal of a preemptive nuclear strike capability against American cities, and he’s not afraid to fail in public,” Harris said. source
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.
Nonetheless, Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedeviled multiple U.S. presidents, a path that he and his administration are emphasizing by preparing a variety of new economic sanctions while not taking the military option off the table.
“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.
Donald Trump: “Major, major” conflict with North Korea possible
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
In other highlights of the 42-minute interview, Trump was cool to speaking again with Taiwan’s president after an earlier telephone call with her angered China.
He also said he wants South Korea to pay the cost of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense system, which he estimated at $1 billion, and intends to renegotiate or terminate a U.S. free trade pact with South Korea because of a deep trade deficit with Seoul.
Asked when he would announce his intention to renegotiate the pact, Trump said: “Very soon. I’m announcing it now.”
Trump also said he was considering adding stops to Israel and Saudi Arabia to a Europe trip next month, emphasizing that he wanted to see an Israeli-Palestinian peace. He complained that Saudi Arabia was not paying its fair share for U.S. defense.
XI ‘TRYING VERY HARD’
Trump said North Korea was his biggest global challenge. He lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese assistance in trying to rein in Pyongyang. The two leaders met in Florida earlier this month.
“I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.
“With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t,” Trump said.
Trump spoke just a day after he and his top national security advisers briefed U.S. lawmakers on the North Korean threat and one day before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will press the United Nations Security Council on sanctions to further isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.
The Trump administration on Wednesday declared North Korea “an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority.” It said it was focusing on economic and diplomatic pressure, including Chinese cooperation in containing its defiant neighbor and ally, and remained open to negotiations.
U.S. officials said military strikes remained an option but played down the prospect, though the administration has sent an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine to the region in a show of force.
Any direct U.S. military action would run the risk of massive North Korean retaliation and huge casualties in Japan and South Korea and among U.S. forces in both countries.
‘I HOPE HE’S RATIONAL’
Trump, asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be rational, said he was operating from the assumption that he is rational. He noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age.
“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.
“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said. source
RUSSIA’S TROOP MOVEMENT COMES AFTER CHINA HAS ALREADY SENT 150,000 TROOPS TO ITS OWN FRONTIER WITH NORTH KOREA
Vladimir Putin is sending troops and equipment to Russia’s border with North Korea over fears the US is preparing to attack Kim Jong-un. The Russian President fears there will be a huge exodus of North Korean refugees if his American counterpart, Donald Trump, launches military action against Pyongyang.
It comes days after it emerged that China is also sending 150,000 soldiers to its southern frontier to cope with the tidal wave of North Koreans Beijing fears would flee across the border if war breaks out.
This morning, footage emerged appearing to show how Putin is reinforcing his 11-mile border with North Korea by relocating troops and equipment.
PUTIN SENDS TROOPS TO RUSSIA’S BORDER WITH NORTH KOREA:
A video purports to show one of three trains loaded with military equipment moving towards the 11 mile-long land frontier between Russia and the repressive state.
Another evidently highlights military helicopter movements towards the North Korean border and manoeuvres across rough terrain by army combat vehicles. Other reports suggest there have been military moves by road as well.
There have been concerns that if a conflict breaks out Russia could face a humanitarian exodus from North Korea. But Putin has been warned, too, that in the event of a US strike on Kim Jong-un’s nuclear facilities, contamination could swiftly reach Russia.
‘Railway trains loaded with military equipment moving towards Primorsky region via Khabarovsk have been noticed by locals,’ reported primemedia.ru in the Russian far East – linking the development to the North Korean crisis.
‘The movement of military equipment by different means of transport to southern areas is being observed across Primorsky region over the past week,’ said military veteran Stanislva Sinitsyn.
‘Many relate this to the situation in the Korean peninsula.
‘The video shows artillery systems that either support troops in assault or meet the aggressor.’
He said: ‘The movement of military equipment means that authorities of our country are keeping up with the situation – and take appropriate measures.’
The movements were ‘a preventive but necessary’ measure.
‘If the situation worsens, especially related to military events, the armed forces of all the neighbouring countries obviously monitor it more closely, and we are no exception. ‘It is not the first time that North Korea has broken the peace in the region, that’s why this situation deserves attention.’
Russian military spokesman Alexander Gordeyev declined to give the exact reasons for the troop and equipment movements but said exercises had recently ended in the TransBaikal region of Siberia.
HOWEVER, A NUMBER OF LOCAL SOURCES APPEAR TO BELIEVE THE MOVEMENTS ARE LINKED TO THE KOREAN CRISIS.
The naval port of Vladivostok – where Russia has huge military forces – is less than 100 miles from North Korea. Expert on the repressive state, Konstantin Asmolov, said: ‘Should the US strike with missiles at North Korea’s nuclear facilities, a radioactive cloud will reach Vladivostok within two hours.’
RUSSIAN BOMBERS NEAR ALASKA TWICE IN 24 HOURS:
Asmolov, from the Russian Far Eastern Institute, warned that in the event of full-scale war ‘hungry asylum seekers will flood into Russia.’
Russia on Wednesday blocked UN Security Council condemnation of Pyongyang’s latest missile test – even though China, which has a major frontier with North Korea had backed the strongly-worded statement put forward by the United States.
The proposed statement would have demanded that North Korea ‘conduct no further nuclear tests’ and halt missile launches. Pyongyang carried out a failed test on Sunday. Russia wanted to include language contained in a previous statement stressing the need to achieve a solution through dialogue, according to council diplomats.
Moscow’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said: ‘Unfortunately, we have to admit that the risk of a serious conflict in this region has substantially increased.’ He called for a ‘demonstration of responsibility’ from all sides to avoid escalation. source
Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the US military on Wednesday, promising it would give an ‘overwhelming and effective’ response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons.
Pence, who was visiting the US Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay, announced that President Donald Trump’s administration would continue to ‘work diligently’ with allies like Japan, China and other global powers to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang.
He also said the President Donald Trump was going to overhaul and simplify the US tax code which ‘will benefit every business represented here today’. In an address to the US Chamber of Commerce in Japan, Pence claimed the ‘era of over-regulation was over.’
Mike Pence Warns North Korea Not to Test Trump:
But, he told the 2,500 sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in a Japanese US naval base: ‘As all of you know, readiness is the key.
‘The United States of America will always seek peace – but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.’
‘Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know: We will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response,’ Pence said.
He also said the US would protect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the sea lanes vital to global shipping where China has been staking claim to disputed territory.
The US Pacific Command confirmed the USS Carl Vinson strike group will be heading to the Korean region in response to the growing instability on the Korean peninsula.
A spokesman said the carrier strike group was being deployed to the western Pacific ‘as a prudent measure’.
From two continents, Pence and defense secretary Jim Mattis – who is in the Middle East – warned that North Korea’s latest failed missile launch was a reckless act of provocation and assured allies in Asia that the US was ready to work to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Never before seen real life footage inside of North Korea:
Mattis denounced North Korea’s attempted missile launch as he began a Middle East tour, telling reporters traveling with him to Saudi Arabia: ‘the leader of North Korea again recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile.’
The term ‘reckless’ is one the North Koreans have used to describe ongoing large-scale US and South Korean military exercises, which the North calls a dress rehearsal for an invasion.
Mattis did not identify the type of missile used but said it was not of intercontinental range, meaning it could not reach US territory. He did not comment on what might have caused the missile to fail.
Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence matter, said the missile was a Scud variant that the US calls a KN-17.
Mattis credited China with trying to help get the North Korea situation ‘under control’ with the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula. Pence’s speech on the aircraft carrier followed meetings Tuesday in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where he noted that ‘all options are on the table.’
Abe said that it was a ‘matter of paramount importance for us to seek diplomatic efforts as well peaceable settlements of the issue.’
‘But at the same time,’ the prime minister said, ‘dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless and it is necessary for us to exercise pressure on North Korea so that it comes forward and engages in this serious dialogue.’
Trump and Pence, who stopped at the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea on Monday, have signaled this week a forceful US stance on North Korea’s recent actions. But it remains unclear what might come next.
Behind the heated rhetoric, Trump’s strategy in the region looks somewhat similar to predecessor Barack Obama’s – albeit with the added unpredictability of a new president who has shown he’s willing to use force.
Pence told reporters Monday that Trump was hopeful China would use its ‘extraordinary levers’ to pressure the North to abandon its weapons program.
But the vice president expressed impatience with the unwillingness of North Korea to move toward ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
The talk of strength was undermined slightly by the announcement by Pentagon officials on Wednesday that the USS Carl Vinison, said to have headed to the Korean Peninsula on April 8, was still languishing in the ocean near Australia.
Mattis had claimed on April 11 that the aircraft carrier’s strike fleet was on its way to North Korea as a ‘prudent measure’ to deter further escalation. But Pentagon officials told CNN on Tuesday that the ships would finally set sail within 24 hours, and the strike group wouldn’t be in the region before next week at the earliest.
Meanwhile, other countries have reacted to the US’s forceful stance in the Korean sea.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters he hopes ‘there will be no unilateral actions like those we saw recently in Syria and that the US will follow the line that President Trump repeatedly voiced during the election campaign.’
China made a plea for a return to negotiations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute to a peaceful resolution.
Lu said Beijing wants to resume the multi-party negotiations that ended in stalemate in 2009 and suggested that US plans to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea were damaging its relations with China. source