In this May 10, 2016, photo, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un watches a parade from a balcony at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. Wong Maye-E/AP REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON — Pivoting off what the White House considers a successful U.S. missile strike in Syria, the Trump administration sent a not-so-subtle message Sunday to North Korea: Don’t risk being next.
With growing signs that Pyongyang may be preparing a sixth nuclear test, a U.S. aircraft carrier strike force near Singapore was diverted north toward the Korean peninsula , President Trump spoke to leaders in Tokyo and Seoul, and senior administration officials made pointed note of the "full range of options" available to counter threats to the United States or its allies.
The sudden flurry of action centering on North Korea comes on the heels of Trump’s summit in Florida on Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders publicly played down their economic and political disputes and addressed their common interest in reining in North Korea’s mercurial leader, Kim Jong Un.
Pyongyang has repeatedly warned that it aims to test an intercontinental ballistic missile or conduct another underground nuclear test. Analysts say one could come as soon as April 15, the 105th birthday of North Korea’s founding president and celebrated annually as the Day of the Sun.
The spotlight’s turn from Syria to North Korea carries benefits as well as risks for the Trump administration, now nearing its 100-day mark.
With a limited but decisive response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of banned sarin nerve gas on Syrian civilians, Trump won plaudits from previously skeptical U.S. allies in Europe, as well as from some of his harshest critics at home.
But even as Trump basked in generally favorable reviews of the first direct U.S. military strike aimed at Assad, the president and his lieutenants seemed far less eager to engage knotty longer-term policy questions about the grinding multi-sided Syrian war, now in its seventh year.
With North Korea, the underlying issues are just as complex, but the threat of a nuclear conflict — or even a devastating conventional military attack on South Korea and Japan — makes the stakes far higher.
Perhaps mindful of parallels that could be drawn over defiance of international norms, North Korea denounced the U.S. missile strike on Syria as "intolerable," and reiterated its own right to self-defense.
The U.S. Nav y’s Third Fleet, in turn, publicly announced that the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and a strike force that includes two missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser were being diverted north from scheduled port calls in Australia to "maintain readiness and presence in the western Pacific."
"The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability," U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham told reporters.
North Korea has a long history of defying United Nations resolutions and other attempts to prevent it from developing nuclear arms in conjunction with its growing ballistic-missile […]