US aircraft carrier diverts to Asia amid N Korean tension


WASHINGTON: US aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson has been diverted to the Western Pacific instead of sailing from Singapore to Australia, the navy said, amid escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

The strike group includes the Carl Vinson, several guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser, according to a statement on the navy’s website. It did not specify a destination.

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

“Third Fleet ships operate forward with a purpose: to safeguard US interests in the Western Pacific,” he said.

“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible, and destabilising programme of missile tests and the pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”

Reuters reported the carrier will move near the Korean peninsula, citing a US official it did not identify. Pacific Command declined to provide the precise location the carrier strike force will be deployed.

US President Donald Trump sent a message to North Korea and its ally China during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida that he was willing to take action over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear programme, said Lee Ho-ryung, chief of North Korean studies at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

“The US is proving itself that it can really take action if you play with chemical weapons like Syria,” Lee said.

Still, “the Carl Vinson’s move toward the Korean peninsula is probably a decision they made some time ago as part of the Foal Eagle joint military drills. In that sense, it’s not a special move”.

The strike group has participated in numerous exercises with Japan and  South Korea and conducted routine patrol operations in the South China Sea since its Jan 5 deployment from San Diego, California, the Navy statement said.

North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test on April 5, shortly before Xi and Trump met. Kim has said previously his regime is close to developing a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the continental US

North Korea said today that US missile strikes against Syria last week were “absolutely unpardonable”, according to a Korean Central News Agency report citing a foreign ministry spokesman.

“North Korea will bolster its capacity to protect itself from reckless moves,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.