Led aircraft carrier group moving towards the Korean Peninsula near North Korea

'US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson strike group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific, ' Commander Benham said.

The sides condemned Pyongyang's recent missile launch, stressing that the North Korean program posed a serious threat to regional security.

Pyongyang is on a quest to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the United States mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five nuclear tests, two of them past year.

In a bustling week at the Pentagon and White House, American officials worked up plans to batter the Syrian airfield and prep for the president's meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping that began Thursday at Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida. Trump this week ordered a missile attack on Syrian forces, after the Syrian government killed at least 80 people in a chemical attack.

But in an interview with the Financial Times published last week, Mr Trump noted that the United States would tackle North Korea even without China's help.

The North has carried out five nuclear tests - two of them past year - and expert satellite imagery analysis suggests it could well be preparing for a sixth.

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 U.S.

The US Navy group, which was originally scheduled to make port calls in Australia from Singapore, headed direct for the Western Pacific Ocean instead.

THAAD, which South Korea agreed in 2016 to be deployed on its territory by the end of 2017, with the stated aim of countering threats from North Korea, serve as one of the main irritants in Beijing-Seoul ties.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has not set out a clear strategy for dealing with the isolated nation, he has criticized the past administration's U.S. policy of "strategic patience", in the face of North Korea's ongoing efforts to develop long-range nuclear strike capability.

Historically, North Korea has announced advancements in its nuclear and missile program on important dates on the North Korean calendar, such as April 15, the birthday of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, or the April 25 Military Foundation Day, the anniversary of the creation of a guerilla force by Kim Il-sung.

-China summit. It was the communist state's fourth attempted missile launch this year as it persists with its banned nuclear-weapons programs, despite global condemnation and punishing economic sanctions.

  • Carolyn Briggs