A report circulating in South Korean media claims that two more U.S. aircraft carriers will be sent to join the USS Carl Vinson strike group off the Korean coast.
American officials have disputed the claim. Meanwhile, North Korea’s U.N. ambassador became the latest official from the communist dictatorship to threaten nuclear war.
The original report from Yonhap News, quoted by English-language media such as the UK Daily Mail, claims that the USS Ronald Reagan will be dispatched from Yokosuka, Japan, to join the Vinson. It also states that USS Nimitz is currently undergoing “final pre-deployment assessment” near Oregon, after which it will also head for the Korean peninsula.
Yonhap quotes various officials saying it would be highly unusual for three American carriers to operate in such close proximity. It is also highly speculative because no matter what the Pentagon might have in mind, the Reagan and Nimitz are not about to roar out of port like speedboats and head for the Korean coast.
For that matter, the Vinson strike group is currently about 3,500 miles away from North Korea, passing between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java after completing scheduled military exercises with the Australians. According to Japanese media, the Vinson is trailed by a group of adoring Chinese and Russian spy ships.
Reporting on the status of the Vinson, Defense News quotes bemused U.S. officials wondering why so many people seem convinced the carrier group is bearing down on North Korea, ready to launch planes at any moment – perhaps because so many administration officials, from Defense Secretary James Mattis to President Trump himself, made statements that strongly suggested the Vinson was heading for North Korea to deal with a crisis situation.
Defense News writes that its official sources “did not dispute speculative media reports from South Korea that the strike group could be in the region by April 25 or so.”
As for claims that two more carrier groups were on the way, the officials “flatly denied” them, noting that USS Ronald Regan is scheduled for maintenance through May at Yokosuka, while USS Nimitz is scheduled to relieve the Vinson sometime in the spring, rather than joining a growing operation.
If the narrative of U.S. carriers converging on North Korea was intended as a low-cost ploy to pressure the regime in Pyongyang, it seems to have worked. On Monday, North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador Kim In-ryong accused the United States of creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”
Kim added that North Korea is “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.” and accused America of “reckless moves for invading the DPRK,” using language very similar to the pronouncements of other North Korean officials.