North Korea vows ‘toughest’ actions as USS Carl Vinson heads back to peninsula
SEOUL, South Korea — Amid rising tensions, North Korea warned it will take the “toughest counteraction” as a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier moved toward the divided peninsula.
Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, directed the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying fleet to sail north from Singapore on Saturday instead of heading for planned port visits in Australia.
It will be the San Diego-based carrier’s second visit to the waters off South Korea in less than a month, a highly unusual fast turnaround.
North Korea’s state-run news agency said the decision proves its longstanding claims that Washington is planning an invasion and warned it is prepared to retaliate.
It also reiterated that the deployment of the Carl Vinson and other U.S. strategic assets recently justifies its nuclear-weapons program.
“The prevailing grave situation proves once again that [North Korea] was entirely just when it increased in every way its military capabilities for self-defense and preemptive attack with a nuclear force as a pivot,” the Korean Central News Agency said.
“We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves,” it added, quoting an unnamed foreign ministry spokesman.
Tensions have spiked as President Donald Trump’s administration has hinted it will take a tougher line against North Korea, which has conducted two nuclear tests and test-fired nearly 30 missiles since last year.
U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster told Fox News on Sunday that Trump has ordered him to prepare “a full range of options” for dealing with the growing threat from the North.
The Carl Vinson strike group, which includes the destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, was in the waters off the peninsula last month to participate in annual war games with South Korea. It made a port call to the southern city of Busan on March 15.
Pyongyang sees the joint military exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion, although Washington and Seoul insist they are defensive in nature.
Military officials have been on alert for North Korea to conduct what they consider provocations in connection with upcoming high-profile events, including the April 15 birthday of Kim Il Sung, its late founder and the current leader’s grandfather.
North Korea also planned to convene a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, raising speculation that leader Kim Jong Un may use the parliamentary meeting to deliver a message to the United States.
The North also will mark the anniversary of the founding of its army on April 25.
The U.S. maintains some 28,500 servicemembers in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
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