On March 8, we wrote an analysis that said North Korea appeared to be crossing a red line set forth by the United States. And now, there are signs that military action on the Korean Peninsula is increasingly likely.
It’s no secret that the USS Carl Vinson has been near the peninsula for a few weeks. But now the USS Ronald Reagan, which is based near-theater in Japan, has joined it. The USS Nimitz, which is based in Washington state, is back in port, having recently completed a training exercise, as is the USS Theodore Roosevelt, farther south in San Diego. The U.S. Navy has said that the Roosevelt would deploy again soon, though it neglected to mention a destination. Dispatching three carrier groups is sensible, if not necessary, for military action against North Korea, but it’s not actually clear what role the Navy would play in the mission.
But the mission itself is clear: If it were to attack North Korea, the United States would try to destroy its nuclear facilities and eliminate the southern artillery batteries aimed at Seoul. And it would do so primarily through the air.
In fact, the United States already has some 100 F-16 fighter aircraft in South Korea. They have been conducting exercises in South Korean airspace regularly for some time — notable insofar as these kinds of exercises often take place before an attack. Such was the case before Operation Desert Storm.