DEBKAfile – February 19, 2017
Donald Trump marked his first month as US President with two major military gambits in the Middle East, Asia and the South China Sea. Early Sunday, Feb. 19, the US Navy said that the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and strike group had begun patrols in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. With them are three air squadrons coming from their Naval Air Station Lemoore: the USS Lake Champlain guided missile cruiser and two guided missile destroyers, the USS Michael Murphy and the USS Wayne E. Meyer.
The deployment comes after Beijing’s warning that a US naval unit sailing near the disputed Spralys, where China has built islands and a military presence, would be seen as a violation of sovereignty, which the US and Japan refuse to recognize.
The Trump administration’s move therefore opens up a potential arena of confrontation between the US and China. It also caries a message for North Korea, which Trump has called “a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly.”
A week ago, on Feb. 12, North Korea launched a missile, using new “cold eject” technology which makes it possible to fire a missile from a submarine. Military experts in Washington and Jerusalem estimate that once Pyongyang has perfected the system, it will be passed to Tehran, an eventuality covered in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s White House talks with President Trump last week, our sources reveal.
Our military sources add that while Washington has publicly announced the transfer of a naval-air force to the South China Sea, the deployment of the large 11th Marine Expeditionary Combat Unit to the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea is being kept low key.