When the White House threatened Pyongyang with a potential strike if there was a new nuclear weapons test by the DPRK, the US task force was actually moving away from the Korean Peninsula. It appears that Donald Trump’s “armada”, led by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, had only been approaching the DPRK figuratively. Trump told Fox Business Network:
We’re sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. This deployment was part of our response to Pyongyang’s provocations.
Earlier, on 8 April, US Pacific Command stated that the Carl Vinson and its escorting task force would head to the Western Pacific in a “show of force” towards the DPRK. Predictably, the gesture prompted a fierce response from Pyongyang, which dubbed the supposed deployment of a task force in the Sea of Japan as a “reckless act of aggression”. A chain reaction of tough statements led to Pyongyang threatening the USA with a pre-emptive strike in the event of any US “political, economic, or military provocation” and prompted US Vice President Mike Pence to announce that “the era of strategic patience [towards the DPRK] is over”. Meanwhile, contrary to all expectations, the much-talked-about “armada” was heading toward Australia, far away from the Korean Peninsula. On Wednesday, Phil Stewart of Reuters noted:
It was even farther away over the weekend, moving through the Sunda Strait, and then into the Indian Ocean, as the DPRK displayed what appeared to be new missiles at a parade and staged a failed missile test.
On Tuesday, the US Pacific Command clarified that the flotilla needed to complete joint naval drills with Australia. The statement added that now the strike group was “proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered”. The paradoxical episode prompted a heated debate in the media, with some observers claiming that Trump’s empty threats have dealt a blow to the new administration’s credibility and others blaming the embarrassing situation on a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House. However, at the same time, some experts called attention to the fact that Trump somehow toned down his harsh rhetoric toward Pyongyang during his recent interview with TMJ4-TV in Wisconsin. Trump expressed hope that DPRK Kim Jong-Un wants to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula:
Hopefully, [Kim Jong-Un] wants peace, and we want peace. That’s gonna be the end determination. We’re gonna have to see what happens.
However, just a few days ago, US media circulated reports that Trump might order a strike against the DPRK if Pyongyang decides to carry out a new nuclear weapons test. Commenting on the matter, political scientist Aleksei Gusev told us:
It’s highly unlikely that the USA would engage the DPRK in a direct confrontation. There’ll be no strike against the DPRK, for the DPRK possesses not only nuclear weapons but also delivery vehicles… missiles with a range of about 5,000 kilometres. That’s enough to reach American territory. Therefore, it’s most likely that [the USA] wouldn’t launch a strike against the DPRK, for such an adventure could end very badly for the USA. Pyongyang remains a major irritant for the Trump administration. I don’t exclude a new nuclear weapons test on the part of the DPRK, as it has already conducted several nuclear weapons tests. Now, probably, there’ll be yet another atomic test… one can understand that Trump should issue a “serious” response [to it].
On Monday, Georgi Toloray, head of Korean studies at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, took a similar stance:
US threats toward the DPRK are a mere bluff. Now, Trump and his administration say that it’s necessary to act decisively and take measures against the DPRK, including military options. However, in my opinion, this is still a bluff. Primarily, this bluff has the aim of making China act more decisively towards the DPRK.
It seems that the Russian experts nailed it, given the fact that the Carl Vinson and its task force were heading away from the Korean Peninsula as Trump and Pence issued threats to Kim Jong-Un.
19 April 2017