Tension Mounts as North Korea and Russia Respond to Missile Strike in Syria

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

In a show of continued presence in seas off the Korean peninsula, a US Navy strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, has been sent toward the western Pacific Ocean.  The strike group will provide a physical presence near the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea’s “destabilizing” nuclear weapons program and looming missile tests.

“US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group North as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” said Commander Dave Benham, a spokesman for US Pacific Command.

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

 

The group deployed from San Diego to the Western Pacific in early January and had been involved in drills with Japan and South Korea as well as routine patrol operations in the disputed South China Sea. Now, the USS Carl Vinson and its associated vessels are headed from Singapore to the Western Pacific Ocean, canceling a planned port visit to Australia.

Retired four-star US General Jack Keane said earlier this week that in the wake of recent nuclear missile tests conducted by North Korea, “Bombing the country’s nuclear facilities may be the only option left.  We’re rapidly and dangerously heading towards the reality that the military option is the only one left when it comes to getting North Korea to denuclearize.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also told reporters during his visit to South Korea that Washington’s “policy of strategic patience has ended,” noting that “all options are on the table.”

In Russia, Viktor Ozerov, head of the defense affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, warned on Sunday that there’s a high risk of a US missile strike on North Korea’s military facilities.  The US president could make the move due to the absence of unanimous condemnation from the UN Security Council of the US missile attack on Syria, Ozerov said.

“The US attack on the airfield of the Syrian Armed Forces, which was not unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council, was explained by the threat of US national security.  North Korea can be perceived by Washington as an even greater threat,” Ozerov said

On Saturday, North Korea lambasted the US strike, saying it was “an unforgivable act of aggression” that also proved that Pyongyang’s decision to develop nuclear weapons was “the right choice a million times over.  The US missile attack against Syria is a clear and unforgivable act of aggression against a sovereign state, and we strongly condemn this,” KCNA quoted an unnamed spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry as saying.

“The reality of today proves our decision to strengthen our military power to stand against a force with force was the right choice” KCNA said.  On Wednesday, Pyongyang fired a medium-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, drawing strong condemnation from Tokyo and Seoul.

Last month, North Korea, believed to be working toward developing a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, successfully fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, three of which reached Japan’s territorial waters.

Jon Harris is an OpsLens contributor and former Army NCO, civilian law enforcement officer, and defense contractor with over 30 years in the law enforcement community. He holds a B.S. in Government and Politics and an M.S. in Criminal Justice.

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