Just Process This Situation Analysis on North Korea

Most of you may have seen the report on CNN yesterday in which a North Korean Ambassador said that the “Supreme Leader” promised a nuclear weapons test just over the Pacific Ocean (detonating a nuclear bomb above the ocean similar to H-Bomb tests conducted in the 1940’s/1950’s). But there’s more:


o   US and South Korean Officials were aboard the most forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and issued a message to North Korea (according to DefenseOne): “…Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) for the South Korean Military said that “amid an unprecedentedly grave security situation, the deployment of USS Ronald Reagan and its carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula and their joint exercise with South Korea is part of the increased deployment of U.S. strategic assets here. It must have been a strong warning to North Korea.”


o   “That carrier is one of now three American flattops in the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet AOR — home to 36 countries in the Asia-Pacific, including Japan and the Korean peninsula. The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is the Navy’s forward-deployed carrier for the 7th Fleet. But now it will be joined by the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) coming from the east, as the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) enters from the west.” – DefenseOne


o   In the wake of ending joint exercises, the USS Ronald Reagan has sailed back out of a South Korean port.  It is permanent dock is located in Yokosuka, Japan.


o   “The Navy announced Tuesday that the Nimitz entered the 7th Fleet’s area after more than two months of airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the western Pacific after departing its homeport of San Diego in early October. From the West Pacific, it will move on to the Persian Gulf.” – Fox


o   Note:  The US military constantly moves strategic assets around the globe for a variety of reasons, and not always because of the need to build up military force to get ready for some type of action. One of the reasons for moving assets, and a reason that is very humanistic, is that our Navy crews need to be rotated, for many reasons.


·         Just like rotating job training, geographic regions give military personnel different challenges. Topography, communications with allies, weather, etc. can be drastically different. Having crews that are well trained in a variety of environments is not only smart, it’s necessary. So, deployments could be for training and familiarization purposes.

·         Secondly, troops need time at home with their families. They need to be in areas where they can easily get to families, have shore leave, etc.

·         Third, the stress of being on full alert at all times can wear on leadership teams, let alone the troops aboard a ship. Rotating them into areas where they can temporarily “stand down” is important.


So, when we aren’t in a war situation or when war is not inevitable, ships will rotate out of a theater to give crews breaks or differentiate their training / preparedness.


Sometimes, when a carrier group or battle group is being redeployed, they wait until their replacement groups arrive on-scene (especially in a hostile region) before sailing for their next destination to ensure that a deterrent force is always in place. And, the overlap is significant – it can be weeks if not months before groups take over the forward-deployed position.


So, one description for why there are three carrier groups in the region at this time is simply that they are rotating.  We typically have two, and one is on site due to overlap.  It sounds like the USS Theodore Roosevelt will return to the Persian Gulf – but currently sits alongside the other two carrier groups while the rotation process is completed.


The timing of this rotation with comments made by North Korea concerning an above-ground nuclear test are interesting; and one may indeed have helped create the other.


But, the reality of the situation may not mean that we are preparing for war… but will always be prepared to defend and fight when and wherever necessary.  



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