WASHINGTON—The U.S. Navy has canceled planned port calls in Australia for the USS Carl Vinson and is instead sending the aircraft carrier toward the Korean Peninsula amid concerns about new weapons tests by North Korea, military officials said Saturday.
The U.S. military is sending the Vinson strike group, including the carrier and two guided-missile destroyers, to operate in the Western Pacific Ocean in response to Pyongyang’s recent missile tests.
There is widespread speculation based on satellite imagery and analysis that North Korea may try to carry out another weapons test in the coming days as the country prepares for its most important national holiday—the anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder on April 15.
North Korea carried out three missile tests in the past month, including a Scud missile launch on April 5 that triggered a terse response from the Trump administration.
“The United States has spoken enough about North Korea,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a two-sentence statement after that test. “We have no further comment.”
Now, one official said, the Navy is sending the strike group as a show of force.
The Trump administration has issued a series of warnings to North Korea about its missile tests.
Last month, during a visit to South Korea, Mr. Tillerson said the U.S. “policy of strategic patience has ended” and that “all options are on the table.”
At their summit Thursday and Friday in Florida, President Donald Trump pressed President Xi Jinping of China to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program. Mr. Tillerson said the two leaders agreed during meetings at held at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf club to work together on the issue, but there was no pact on concrete steps to deter North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
The decision to send the Vinson toward the Korean Peninsula comes as Mr. Trump is taking a more aggressive American military posture around the world.
Mr. Trump on Thursday ordered America’s first direct military strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. fired nearly 60 cruise missiles at a Syrian regime airfield believed to be home to pilots who carried out a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed more than 85 people, including 27 children.
U.S. leaders said the one-time strike, which did modest damage to the airfield, was meant to deter Mr. Assad from using chemical weapons again.
The U.S. also added to its forces in Iraq and Syria as the military tries to drive Islamic State from its biggest strongholds: Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the militant group’s de facto capital in Syria.