US Navy strike group to move toward Korean peninsula, says US official

A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group is on the way to the Korean peninsula amid rising tensions with North Korea, officials said Saturday.

North Korea has conducted a number of weapons tests this year.

The nuclear-powered Vinson and its strike group, which includes the cruisers USS Bunker Hill and USS Lake Champlain and ships of Destroyer Squadron 1, will make its way from Singapore, according to a US official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and requested anonymity.

The strike group, called Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and will make its way from Singapore toward the Korean peninsula, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and requested anonymity. Pyongyang claims it is pursuing nuclear weapons to defend itself from what it calls U.S. aggression.

This week, President Tump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, where North Korea was expected to be at the top of the agenda, before Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Syria.

Earlier this year, China called on both North Korea and the U.S. to tone down tension on the Korean Peninsula - North Korea by suspending its nuclear weapons program and the USA by stopping military exercises with South Korea that inflame the Pyongyang regime.

Tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula as North Korea has conducted four missile launches this year and US officials have said it appears another North Korean underground nuclear test could occur at any time.

But General Lori Robinson expressed concerns for the type of ballistic missile powered by a solid-fuel engine that Pyongyang said it successfully tested in February.

"We feel the increased presence is necessary", the official said, citing North Korea's worrisome behaviour.

The release said the strike group "will operate in the Western Pacific rather than executing previously planned port visits to Australia".

He said military option is on the table if the North Korea elevates the threat of its weapons program.

In South Korea last month, Tillerson said "the policy of strategic patience has ended".

A Surface Action Group composed of the guided-missile destroyers Sterett and Dewey departed San Diego on March 31 and is nearing the coast of Hawaii on their way to meet up with the Vinson in the Western Pacific.

The decision to move the carrier group also comes days after the United States launched a Tomahawk missile strike against a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapon attack allegedly carried out by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country's civil war.

  • Carolyn Briggs