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WASHINGTON – The US Navy said Saturday it had sent a carrier-led strike group to the Korean peninsula in a show of force against North Korea’s “reckless” nuclear weapons program.The move will raise tensions in the region and comes hard on the heels of a US missile strike on Syria that was widely interpreted as putting Pyongyang on warning over its refusal to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
North Korea denounced Thursday’s strike as an act of “intolerable aggression” and one that justified “a million times over” the North’s push toward a credible nuclear deterrent.
“US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” said Commander Dave Benham, spokesman at US Pacific Command.
“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible, and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” he told AFP, in an unusually forceful statement.
Originally scheduled to make port calls in Australia, the strike group – which includes the Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier USS Carl Vinson – is now headed from Singapore to the Western Pacific Ocean.
Pyongyang is on a quest to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five nuclear tests, two of them last year.
Expert satellite imagery analysis suggests it could well be preparing for a sixth, with US intelligence officials warning that Pyongyang could be less than two years away from developing a nuclear warhead that could reach the continental United States. (AFP)