More than a week after reports first emerged that president Trump had sent the aircraft carrier and its accompanying ships toward the peninsula to pressure China and North Korea, it appears to be the only real action China has so far taken during the crisis, suggesting close military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow, and not Beijing and Washington as Western media reports have suggested.
President Trump’s National Security Adviser General McMaster had declared earlier that China was “working” with the US on a “range of options” to solve the Korean crisis.
As the US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its accompanying escort ships come within striking distance of North Korea, a Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, revealed the presence of Russian and Chinese spy ships to monitor US movements. The Japanese government had dispatched its own warships to join the task force led by Carl Vinson.
According to Yomiuri Shimbun “numerous sources within the Japanese government” have confirmed the presence of the spy ships. The Japanese daily notes: “The dispatch of the intelligence-gathering vessels appears to be partly aimed at sending a warning signal to the United States”.
The move by Russia and China furthermore supports a long-held rumour that there is a secret agreement for intelligence sharing between the two countries. The joint decision to shadow the Carl Vinson would have had to involve both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping coming to an agreement, Alexander Mercouris, a political commentator said.
“The Carl Vinson Strike Group cancelled a previously planned port visit to Australia and is continuing on track for all assigned missions in the Western Pacific,” the latest US Navy statement read.
But according to a report by South Korea’s primary news outlet, Yonhap, the Pentagon has directed a total of three US aircraft carriers toward the Korean Peninsula, citing a South Korean government source.
Yonhap reports that in addition to the CVN-70 Carl Vinson, expected to arrive off the South Korean coast on April 25, the CVN-76 Ronald Reagan – currently in home port in Yokosuka, Japan – and the CVN-68 Nimitz carrier group – near Oregon – will enter the Sea of Japan next week.
Japan is nervous about mounting tensions with its closest neighbour. The head of the New Party Daichi, said it was necessary to involve North Korea in a dialogue as the pressure on Pyongyang should not be considered as the only way to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Muneo Suzuki, the head of the New Party Daichi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unofficial adviser on Russian relations, explained: “I believe that pressure should not remain the only tool of interaction. At the same time we must try to involve North Koreans in a dialogue on the international arena.”
Suzuki told the Izvestia newspaper: “One should express wisdom, find a right approach – that will not be easy but it does not mean that one should sit idle.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi too repeated China’s resolve that the crisis could only be addressed through diplomacy. Currently China and North Korea maintain “normal contacts, including normal business contacts”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
North Korea has warned of a nuclear strike against the United States if provoked. US Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol told the BBC that missiles are going be tested on “a weekly, monthly and yearly basis”.
Meanwhile US Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Tokyo from South Korea, where he reminded Japanese leaders of their “iron-clad” alliance with the United States. As with China, Pence’s economic discussions will certainly focus on the US trade deficit with Japan.
On April 14, US media reported that US President Donald Trump had warned that he would order a strike against North Korea if Pyongyang decided to carry out another nuclear weapon test.
In response, North Korean armed forces threatened a strike against US military bases in Japan and South Korea, as well as the presidential residence in Seoul in case of US aggression.