The U.S. bombardment of a Syrian airbase just outside of Homs Friday was likely seen by North Korea as a clear warning that President Trump will use his military if United States interests are at risk.
The immediate focus after the strikes was on Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s reaction. Russia was not happy with the U.S., it spoke in defense of Syria and moved warships. But now the attention is on the next move by another world leader: Kim Jong-Un.
A U.S. Navy strike group will be moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force, a U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday, as concerns grow about North Korea’s advancing weapons program.
Earlier this month North Korea tested a liquid-fueled Scud missile which only traveled a fraction of its range.
The strike group, called Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and will make its way from Singapore toward the Korean peninsula, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and requested anonymity.
“We feel the increased presence is necessary,” the official said, citing North Korea’s worrisome behavior.
Gordon Chang, a Daily Beast columnist and author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World,” said in an emailed statement to Fox News Friday that the U.S. strike on the Syrian airfield “tells North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un that he must now heed American military power, something that he probably dismissed before.”
“Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, disappeared from public view for about six weeks in 2003 at the time of the Iraq war. Kim Jong-Un loves the public spotlight, and it will be telling if he similarly goes into hiding,” the author said.
The airstrikes are “a warning to China’s People’s Liberation Army, which had grown dismissive of the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader visiting Mar-a-Lago, almost certainly interpreted the strike as a sign of disrespect to him,” Chang said.
Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane told Fox News on Wednesday that the U.S. is “rapidly and dangerously heading towards the reality that the military option is the only one left when it comes to getting North Korea to denuclearize and not weaponized [intercontinental ballistic missiles].”
Trump made it a point to address the media about the Syria strike at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida just moments after dining with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping.
The strike was a culmination of a rapid, three-day transformation for Trump, who has long opposed deeper U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war. Advisers said he was outraged by heartbreaking images of young children who were among the dozens killed in the chemical attack and ordered his national security team to swiftly prepare military options. The Los Angeles Times reported up to 15 dead in the strikes. A Syrian official said six were killed at the base and nine others in surrounding areas. The death toll could not be independently confirmed.
“This is Trump saying, ‘No, I am a man of my words,’” Reva Goujon, the vice president of Stratfor, told CNBC. “’When I make a threat, I will follow through.’ That’s certainly something the Chinese and North Koreans will be thinking about.”
Trump has said that if China doesn’t exert more pressure on North Korea, the U.S. will act alone. The missile strikes on Syria bring more weight to that statement.
Trump’s national security aides have completed a review of U.S. options to try to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. These include economic and military measures but lean more toward sanctions and increased pressure on Beijing to rein in its reclusive neighbor.
Although the option of pre-emptive military strikes on North Korea is not off the table, the review prioritizes less-risky steps and de-emphasizes direct military action.
Trump spoke with South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Friday, the White House said on Saturday in a statement which did not mention the strike group.
Sources: AP, Reuters, and FOX News