Watch out North Korea. The U.S. Navy has decided to deploy the USS Nimitz as a third carrier-led strike force to the western Pacific to increase pressure on North Korea to rein in its arms programs.
Nimitz, one of the world’s largest warships, will join the USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan there, sources close to the U.S. military said May 26.
It is rare for the U.S. Navy to deploy three aircraft carriers to the same region at the same time. This latest decision means that three of the U.S. Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers will be deployed in the western Pacific.
The Trump administration deployed the strike force to put pressure on Pyongyang to refrain from more nuclear and missile tests amid mounting concern that it will soon acquire the capability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Vincent Stewart, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, has said that Pyongyang will ultimately succeed in acquiring the technology to equip its ICBMs with nuclear warheads and threaten the U.S. mainland.
According to the sources, the Nimitz strike group, which is part of the U.S. Third Fleet, was originally scheduled to be deployed to the Middle East region. It was initially to depart from its homeport, Naval Base Kitsap in Washington State, on June 1.
However, the U.S. Navy changed tactics and decided to deploy the nuclear-powered warship to the western Pacific for six months to deal with this latest crisis involving North Korea, the sources said.
The decision also sends a signal to China to continue cooperating with the United States on this issue. President Donald Trump has already said that the United States will independently take action against North Korea if China does not cooperate.
The Carl Vinson strike group, which is also part of the Third Fleet, has been deployed to the Sea of Japan since late April.
The Ronald Reagan strike group, which belongs to the Seventh Fleet that is based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and is in charge of the western Pacific, left its homeport on April 16. It is scheduled to carry out a joint drill with the Carl Vinson strike group.
Whether the Nimitz strike group joins the drill or not has yet to be revealed.