US aircraft carrier-led strike group headed toward Korean Peninsula

Updated 5:57 AM EDT, Wed April 19, 2017
This undated photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 11, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front C) during a combat drill of the service personnel of the special operation battalion of the Korean People's Army Unit 525.
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Story highlights

The move is in response to recent North Korean provocations, a US official says

Earlier this week, North Korea launched a Scud extended-range missile

(CNN) —  

A US aircraft carrier-led strike group is headed toward the Western Pacific Ocean near the Korean Peninsula, a US defense official confirmed to CNN.

The move of the Vinson strike group is in response to recent North Korean provocations, the official said.

Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of US Pacific Command, directed the USS Carl Vinson strike group to sail north to the Western Pacific after departing Singapore on Saturday, Pacific Command announced.

01:17 - Source: CNN
US and South Korea conduct military drills

It is not uncommon for aircraft carriers to operate in that area, and the United States regularly deploys military assets, such as aircraft, to the region as a show of force. In fact, the Vinson was in South Korea last month for military exercises.

Just days ago, North Korea launched a Scud extended-range missile, which US officials said exploded in flight. The regime also has recently conducted several missile engine tests as it works to improve its ballistic missile technology.

In September of last year, North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a nuclear warhead. Pyongyang says it is pursuing nuclear weapons to defend itself from what it calls US aggression.

01:04 - Source: CNN
How much damage can North Korea's weapons do?

News of the carrier move comes just after a summit meeting between US President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, where North Korea was one of the top items on the agenda.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump and Xi agreed on the “urgency of the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program” and agreed to work together to resolve the issue “peacefully.”

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told Fox News on Sunday that it was “prudent” to move the strike group near the Korean Peninsula because “North Korea has been engaged in a pattern of provocative behavior.”

McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday” that Xi and Trump agreed in their meetings that “it is unacceptable” for North Korea to be nuclear-capable and the Korean Peninsula must be denuclearized.

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

02:13 - Source: CNN
Experts: North Korea missile program advancing

Days before the summit, Trump warned that the US was prepared to act unilaterally to stop North Korea’s nuclear program from advancing further should China be unwilling to use its leverage over Pyongyang.

But analysts say any unilateral military options for the US concerning North Korea posed significant problems.

While the US possesses overwhelming firepower compared to North Korea, an American strike on North Korea could expose South Korea to devastating casualties in retaliation, experts say.