The tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to escalate. Recent rhetoric has ratcheted things up a notch. On Sunday, North Korea threatened to sink a US submarine if it left harbor in South Korea. And today, Japan is sending in its navy to further strengthen the forces allied against Kim Jong Un.
The helicopter carrier JS Izumo left port in Yokosuka port Monday. The ship will escort a US supply ship in the Pacific that is headed to refuel the US fleet off the coast of Korea.
Japan’s official proclamation about the departure of the Izumo says that the ship is headed to an event in Singapore on May 15th. The route it takes to get there, though, may well anger the North Korean government even more. And the Japanese government has authorized the Izumo to use force defending the American fleet.
As for the United States, the US Embassy in Seoul has announced that CIA director Mike Pompeo is visiting Seoul on Monday. The visit had been unannounced. South Korean media are reporting that Pompeo is meeting with the head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service.
A North Korean missile test on Saturday reportedly failed seconds after lift-off. The test, which Chinese diplomats had been strongly discouraging, was a defiant move against the wishes of allies who stand steadfast in their determination to prevent North Korea from obtaining practical nuclear weapons.
The rising tension have many in the Pacific region on edge. Even Australia, as distant as it is from the Korean Peninsula, is weighing in on the situation. Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull spoke at a commemoration of the Battle of the Coral Sea (1942) and issued a stark rebuke to North Korea.
“Today Australia and the United States continue to work with our allies to address new security threats around the world,” Turnbull said. “Together, we’re taking a strong message to North Korea that we will not tolerate reckless, dangerous threats to the peace and stability of our region.”
As for the US fleet, the Carl Vinson strike group is still in the area, and the USS Michigan is still docked in Busan.