As tension grows regarding North Korea’s missile testing and weapons programs, San Diego-based U.S. Navy ships are participating in exercises in the Western Pacific.
“Obviously, there's been a lot of tension on the North Korean Peninsula over the last six months, two years actually, since Kim Jong-Un came to power,” said Stephan Haggard, Ph.D. Haggard is a professor at the Graduate School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego.
Those San Diego-based ships from the 3rd Fleet and those in the 7th Fleet serve as a deterrent.
“To signal the capacity of the United States to respond to provocations,” Haggard added.
USS Carl Vinson Strike Group conducted exercises with allies the Republic of Korea Navy and, for the first time since World War II, met up with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The March exercises got the attention of North Korea which released a propaganda video showing a graphic simulation the U.S. Navy ship and aircraft being hit by a missile.
Haggard said North Korea is known for these type of videos.
“They're designed primarily for the domestic audience within North Korea to show the strength of the leadership and the fact that it's a world power,” Haggard said.
President Donald Trump meets with China’s President at the President’s Mar-a-Lago home this week. The meeting, experts say, is an opportunity to gain some movement in negotiations with North Korea to slow their nuclear program.
It has been eight years since talks broke down.
President Trump has made it clear he wants increased sanctions.
“He signaled that the trade issue is likely to be the point of leverage with China and trying to get North Korea to move… that means trying to get China to lessen up on it support for North Korea through the extensive trade it does with Pyongyang,” Haggard said.
One looming question is: What are North Korea’s capabilities?
Haggard believes that they do not have the capability of striking the U.S. but could strike South Korea or Japan.
The upcoming presidential election in South Korea is another factor to consider. The fear is that they may lean more toward North Korean policies verses the vision of the U.S.
Meantime Haggard believes the 30,000 troops in South Korea and U.S. Naval exercises help keep North Korea in check and Navy ships are not in danger.
Now the Vinson Strike Group has completed the exercises, other San Diego based ships continue to ready to play a role.
The Sterett-Dewey Surface Action Group left San Diego Friday for the Western Pacific to support maritime stability and security if needed, in a region where growing tensions are the new reality in the Pacific.