Before the dust had settled at the bombed out Syrian military base in Shayrat, speculation began over how President Trump’s quick response to Bashar al-Assad’s latest deadly chemical attack would impact the behavior of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — and what steps Trump might now take against the bellicose dictator.
While we don’t yet have an answer to the first question, the second has already been answered: a U.S. Navy carrier strike group has been ordered to the Korean Peninsula.
Carrier Strike Group 1, led by the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson, is en route to the Western Pacific near the peninsula, as U.S. and regional concerns mount over North Korea’s growing military capabilities, a U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday.
“We feel the increased presence is necessary,” the unidentified official told Reuters.
Unlike the Tomahawk cruise missile attack launched against Syria on Thursday, the movement of the carrier strike force to Kim’s doorstep is intended as not only a show of force, but also as a clear message to both North Korea and China.
During an interview published in last Sunday’s Financial Times, Trump was direct: “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” as reported by CNN.
“China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won’t. If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CBS’s “Face the Nation” in an interview aired Sunday that China’s President Xi Jingping agrees with U.S. assessment that action must be taken against the growing threat posed by North Korea’s expanded nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
“President Xi clearly understands, and I think agrees, that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken.”
Tillerson said Trump and Xi had “extensive discussions around the dangerous situation in North Korea” during their meeting at Mar-a-Lago last week.
The “wild card” in the equation is Kim’s irrational behavior.
On Saturday, Kim declared that North Korea was “on the brink of war” with the U.S. and would deliver “the most ruthless blow,” in response to reports that a high-level defector has urged Trump to assassinate him.
Other options presented to Trump by the National Security Council, as reported by NBC News, include the stationing U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea.
Incidentally, after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called Kim a “crazy fat kid” during a TV interview last month, the Korean Central New Agency — Kim’s mouthpiece — labeled McCain’s “grave provocation” a “blasphemy.”
It’s unclear whether North Korea is on the brink of war with Senator McCain.