US strike group heads toward Korean Peninsula

(CNN)A US aircraft carrier-led strike group is headed toward the Western Pacific Ocean near the Korean Peninsula, a US defense official confirmed to CNN.

The move of the Vinson strike group is in response to recent North Korean provocations, the official said.

Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of US Pacific Command, directed the USS Carl Vinson strike group to sail north to the Western Pacific after departing Singapore on Saturday, Pacific Command announced.

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It is not uncommon for aircraft carriers to operate in that area, and the United States regularly deploys military assets, such as aircraft, to the region as a show of force. In fact, the Vinson was in South Korea last month for military exercises.

Just days ago, North Korea launched a Scud extended-range missile, which US officials said exploded in flight. The regime also has recently conducted several missile engine tests as it works to improve its ballistic missile technology.

In September of last year, North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a nuclear warhead. Pyongyang says it is pursuing nuclear weapons to defend itself from what it calls US aggression.

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News of the carrier move comes just after a summit meeting between US President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, where North Korea was one of the top items on the agenda.

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told Fox News on Sunday that it was “prudent” to move the strike group near the Korean Peninsula because “North Korea has been engaged in a pattern of provocative behavior.”

McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday” that Xi and Trump agreed in their meetings that “it is unacceptable” for North Korea to be nuclear-capable and the Korean Peninsula must be denuclearized.

Earlier this year, China called on both North Korea and the US to tone down tension on the Korean Peninsula — North Korea by suspending its nuclear weapons program and the US by stopping military exercises with South Korea that inflame the Pyongyang regime.

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