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U.S. Deploys Navy Strike Group To Korean Peninsula As Missile Concerns Mount

The Carl Vinson Strike Group set sail for the Korean Peninsula where it will lend its physical presence as North Korea insists on continuing its weapons testing programs.

A U.S. Navy strike group has been ordered to relocate to the western Pacific Ocean, providing a physical presence near the Korean Peninsula as concerns mount over North Korea's missile program.

The Pentagon announced the deployment late Saturday. In a statement, U.S. Pacific Command spokesman David Benham said the Carl Vinson Strike Group set sail toward the peninsula from Singapore.

"For more than 70 years, the U.S. Navy has maintained a persistent naval presence in the Indo-Asia Pacific. The U.S. Navy is committed to continuing this forward presence, which is focused on stability, regional cooperation and economic prosperity for all nations," said Benham.

The announcement comes amid North Korea's insistent testing of a ballistic missile program, which is banned under international rules. At the same time, it's the latest action from the Trump administration as it works to articulate its red line in handling the rogue nation.

Speaking on ABC's This Week on Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cited the weapon, potentially capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, as the administration's greatest concern.

"If we judge that they have perfected that type of delivery system, then that becomes a very serious stage of their further development," said Tillerson.

Earlier this year, Tillerson stated that "all of the options are on the table" during his first Asia visit as top U.S. diplomat.

Meanwhile, Trump is reported to have pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping to have his country take a greater role in curbing North Korea's nuclear and missile aspirations.

The North, for its part, continues to justify its missile program as protection against a perceived threat from the U.S., which routinely carries out military exercises with its southern rival.

Moreover, North Korea has criticized the recent airstrike by the U.S. on a Syrian government target.

The Associated Press notes: "North Korea has pledged to bolster its defenses to protect against such airstrikes. The North called the U.S. action in Syria 'absolutely unpardonable' and said it proves that its nuclear weapons are justified to protect the country against Washington's 'evermore reckless moves for a war.'"

The Carl Vinson Strike Group, which includes an aircraft carrier and several destroyers, has been deployed to the region since the beginning of the year. Previously, it was engaged in patrols of the South China Sea and joint military exercises with both Japan and South Korea.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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