The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was recently sent to the Korean Peninsula
The US Navy sent an aircraft carrier along with guided missile carriers to the Korean peninsula following heightened tensions in the region and meetings with China’s President Xi Jinping. The carrier group sent has both offensive and defensive capabilities, able to launch missiles to shore and potentially intercept ballistic missiles in the air. While standoffs with North Korea have become common in recent years this deployment of ships as well as remarks by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson show that tensions have reached a boiling point.
Tillerson has appeared on multiple networks to talk about the recent deployment of ships as well as the strikes on Syria. He claims the US commits to both moves to uphold international agreements and punish states that ignore them. In the case of Syria the breaking point was the use of chemical weapons and in the case of North Korea it would be the development of nuclear weapons and frequent missile tests.
Normally China will intervene and prevent outright confrontation with North Korea, but according to an interview with Tillerson on CBS’s Face of the Nation, Tillerson and the Trump administration believe that President Xi will understand if the US takes direct action against North Korea. Signs do point to China becoming increasingly aggravated with North Korea, to the point of refusing to purchase coal from their ally after the assassination of a Kim family member under Bejing’s direct protection.
Even with China accepting the US taking a harder stance on North Korea, a missile strike against the country could mean much more trouble than one against Syria. Torn apart by civil war, the Assad regime in Syria cannot respond to missile attacks as North Korea can.
The Kim regimes launch so many missile tests specifically to prove that North Korea can retaliate if struck. While North Korean missiles likely cannot reach all the way over to big population centers in the US they could potentially ravage US allies like South Korea and Japan. If such strikes happen the US may have to support its allies in war. Not only would war require support from the US legislature and public, but it would likely spell death and destruction for the nearby region. With Kim Jong-un pulling away even from longtime allies and the Trump administration ratcheting up the heat, war feels like a real possibility.