Carrier group heads to Sea of Japan amid tensions with North Korea

  • As Blaze devastates Grand-Synthe migrant camp outside Dunkirk

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group is heading to the Sea of Japan amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea and following multiple missile tests conducted by the regime this year.

The strike group, comprised of the aircraft carrier and three other ships, had just completed a port visit to Singapore before receiving orders to head into waters east of the Korean peninsula.

The Navy said the strike group “will operate in the Western Pacific rather than executing previously planned port visits to Australia.”

Tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula as North Korea has conducted four missile launches this year. U.S. officials have said it appears another North Korean underground nuclear test could occur at any time.

And U.S. officials have speculated the timing of a nuclear test or additional missile tests could be tied to the upcoming April 15 birthday of Kim il Sung, North Korea’s founder.

Deploying the strike group is a show of American military force during a critical time in North Korea’s missile and nuclear development.

If North Korea conducts another missile test, the strike group’s location in the Sea of Japan means it could be in the missile’s flight path.

In early March, North Korea launched five medium-range Scud missiles, four of which traveled more than 600 miles, the upper limit of their range, before plunging into the Sea of Japan. Three of the missiles landed in waters in Japan’s economic exclusion zone, which extends 200 miles from its shore.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster called the decision to send the strike group to the Sea of Japan “prudent.”

“Well, it’s prudent to do it, isn’t it?” McMaster told Fox News on Sunday. “I mean, North Korea has been engaged in a pattern of provocative behavior. This is — this is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear capable regime.”

McMaster said that Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed with President Trump that North Korea’s behavior is “unacceptable” and that the Korean Peninsula must be denuclearized. Xi and Trump held meetings at Trump’s Florida Mar-A-Lago resort last weekend.

“The president has asked to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat the American people and to our allies and partners in the region,” McMaster said.

In the meantime, a large fire has devastated the Grande-Synthe migrant camp outside the northern French city of Dunkirk, reducing it to “a heap of ashes”, according to the region’s prefect.

Firefighters said at least 10 people had been injured on Monday night in the blaze at the camp, which was home to between 1,000 and 1,500 people, humanitarian groups said, living in closely packed wooden huts.

“There is nothing left but a heap of ashes,” said Michel Lalande, prefect of France’s Nord region, at the site. “It will be impossible to put the huts back where they were before.”

The blaze broke out after at least six migrants were wounded after scuffles and a knife fight earlier in the day between Afghan and Kurdish migrants. Riot police intervened and that led to further clashes between security forces and between 100 and 150 migrants.

One of the injured migrants was knocked over by a car on a highway outside the camp and was in a critical condition, police said. Three other migrants had stab wounds.

A massive plume of smoke rose from the camp into the night sky and was visible from several kilometres away.

“Many of the cabins have burned down or are still on fire, more than half the camp has been destroyed,” a spokesman at the regional prefect’s office said, adding that 165 people had already been taken to makeshift shelters nearby as the fire continued to rage in the early hours of Tuesday.

ABC with additional report from Guardian