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Japanese, US navies plan joint show of force towards North Korea
[TOKYO] Japan's navy plans a joint show of force with the US Navy's USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group as it steams towards the Korean peninsula aimed at deterring secretive North Korean regime from further missile tests, two sources said.
With tension growing markedly, the Korean peninsula is the closest it has been to a "military clash" since Pyongyang's first nuclear test in 2006, an influential state-run Chinese newspaper said on Wednesday.
North Korea should halt any plans for nuclear and missile activities "for its own security", the Global Times said in an editorial.
While widely read in China and run by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, the Global Times does not represent government policy.
Tension has escalated sharply on the Korean peninsula amid concerns that reclusive North Korea could soon conduct a sixth nuclear test or more missile launches and US President Donald Trump's threat of unilateral action to solve the problem.
Mr Trump, who has urged China to do more to rein in its impoverished ally and neighbour, said on Twitter that North Korea was "looking for trouble" and the United States would "solve the problem" with or without Beijing's help.
The Global Times editorial noted Mr Trump's recent decision to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield in response to a deadly gas attack last week.
"Not only Washington brimming with confidence and arrogance following the missile attacks on Syria, but Trump is also willing to be regarded as a man who honours his promises," the Global Times said.
"The US is making up its mind to stop the North from conducting further nuclear tests. It doesn't plan to co-exist with a nuclear-armed Pyongyang," it said.
"Pyongyang should avoid making mistakes at this time."
North Korean state media warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression.
Officials from the North, including leader Kim Jong Un, have indicated an intercontinental ballistic missile test or something similar could be coming.
North Korea launched a long-range rocket carrying a satellite on April 13, 2012, marking the anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founding president Kim Il Sung.
Saturday will be the 105th birthday of the founding leader.
Concerned at the rapid pace of North Korea's ballistic missile development, Japan's navy plans to conduct exercises with the Vinson strike carrier group, two sources said on condition of anonymity.
The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (MSDF) and the US Navy could conduct helicopter landings on each other's ships, as well as communication drills, as the US ships pass through waters close to Japanese territory, the sources said.
"Japan wants to dispatch several destroyers as the Carl Vinson enters the East China Sea," one of them said.
One the people who spoke to Reuters has direct knowledge of the plan, while the other has been briefed on the exercises. MSDF officials did not respond immediately when asked for comment.
A senior Japanese diplomat said it appeared the US position was to put maximum pressure on North Korea to reach a solution peacefully and diplomatically.
"At least, if you consider overall things such as the fact that the US government has not put out warnings to its citizens in South Korea, I think the risk (of military action) at this point is not high," said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified.
South Korea's acting president, Hwang Kyo-Ahn, has warned of "greater provocations" by North Korea and ordered the military to intensify monitoring. Lee Duk-Haeng, South Korea's unification ministry spokesman, said South Korea, the United States and "other countries" were coordinating closely.
North Korea fired a liquid-fueled Scud missile this month, the latest in a series of tests in defiance of United Nations resolutions and sanctions that have displayed Pyongyang's ability to launch attacks and use hard-to-detect solid-fuel rockets.
North Korea remains technically at war with the United States and its ally South Korea after the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. It regularly threatens to destroy both countries.
The Carl Vinson strike group, which cancelled a planned visit to Australia, is sailing from Singapore. The 100,000 ton Nimitz-class vessel is powered by two nuclear reactors and carriers almost 100 aircraft.
Under Third Fleet command, it has been patrolling Asia for several months as the Seventh Fleet's forward-deployed carrier in Yokosuka, Japan, undergoes scheduled maintenance.
Japan's navy, the second largest in Asia after China, is made up mostly of escort destroyers, but includes four large helicopter carriers.