- The US Navy technically has a whopping five aircraft carriers in the Pacific, but unlike other times when there were multiple carriers near North Korea, President Donald Trump isn’t playing it up as much.
- The US stretched the facts in April to say it had carriers headed to North Korea, but now that there really are carriers inbound, it has been quieter.
- Trump seems more optimistic about a diplomatic solution with North Korea, and his relationship with China could be why.
President Donald Trump headed to South Korea on Tuesday with a measured but resolved message for North Korea, while three US aircraft carriers loomed large in the waters nearby, and another two operated near the US’s West Coast.
Asked by journalist Sharyl Attkinson on her show, Full Measure, if the carriers’ presence was a message to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Trump was uncharacteristically restrained.
“I don’t know if it’s a message,” he said.
In remarks alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in while in Seoul, Trump came off measured — though he did point out the three aircraft carriers and a nuclear submarine in the region, saying he hoped North Korea may look to “come to the table and make a deal” in light of the military pressure.
In April, when North Korean missile tests regularly made headlines and troubled US allies in the region, the US rushed to make rare announcements of Navy deployments by saying two aircraft carriers were inbound when in fact they were hundreds of miles and weeks away.
At the time, Trump warned he had sent an “armada” to North Korea. He also warned that if “China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!”
Now the US has three aircraft carriers preparing for a giant maritime drill with a Japanese aircraft carrier and several guided-missile destroyers in tow, but Trump has chosen to play it in a different way.
Previously, Trump seriously undercut his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts to negotiate with Pyongyang, saying the former Exxon executive was “wasting his time.”
The cause for Trump’s swing in attitude may be China, North Korea’s ally and biggest trading partner. Asked in the Attkisson interview his thoughts on China, Trump estimated an “extremely high” chance that Chinese President Xi Jinping would help the US against its ally in Pyongyang.
“Ultimately it will all work out,” Trump said before a military briefing near Seoul. “It always works out. It has to work out!”
If by “working out” Trump means avoiding nuclear war, then he’s correct — historically it always does work out. But his shift from aggression to optimism is telling.
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