North Korean Tensions Increase Ahead of Trump Visit to China and South Korea
Three US aircraft carrier strike groups have now converged in the waters off the Korean peninsula including the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan.
This comes after the US replenishment and increase in munitions being held in Guam, reported concerns that Secretary of State Tillerson’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution had hit an impasse, and reports that the US was in the process of increasing the readiness and alert status of its strategic, nuclear-capable B-52 bomber fleet. The nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Michigan with its SEAL special forces silos on the back is also on patrol in the region along with several other attack boats likely shadowing US aircraft carrier groups. Japan has called for action and warned that the window to stop North Korea from attaining the strategic nuclear arsenal of Kim Jong-un’s dreams in narrowing every day. South Korea has announced plans for a new ballistic missile to attack the North. Interestingly, Russia is in the process of wrapping up a special forces air assault exercises near the North Korean border just after American and South Korean air and sea exercises. US President Donald Trump is expected to visit China and South Korea next month.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang has reportedly moved both Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) from their factories in recent weeks and readied 30 or so Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) for firing. There are reports that North Korea has issued live ammunition to its military forces on the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) making them war ready. There are unconfirmed reports in the Japanese press that North Korea conducted a static test of a solid fuel rocket engine in Hamhung on the coast in September. The Pujkguksong-1 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) and land-based Pukguksong-2 Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) variant are the only strategic systems believed to currently employ solid-fuel rocket engines, but there are rumors of a third SLBM variant that may be being readied for the recently modified Sinpo-class conventionally-powered ballistic missile submarine and its larger follow-on ship now in building. Without question, the North Korean strategic systems such as, the ICBM, SLBM, and IRBMs are all likely to field missiles with solid fuel rockets in the next few years as it lowers time required to fire the rockets, and makes them harder to find, target, and destroy before they launch. North Korea has warned that the US must take seriously its threat to test a thermonuclear device over the Pacific soon.
In summary, while the US and North Korea are both posturing for a show of force we are not seeing in the open media increased logistical support to US forces in the region suggesting that they are on the verge of taking or initiating offensive action, but they appear building toward it and President Trump’s visit to the region. It seems reasonable that any military action would only follow President Trump’s visit to China and South Korea should the US decide to do so. On the other hand, President Trump’s visit could set off a whole new series of North Korean provocations that they have been apparently holding back for maximum attention.
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