The U.S. Navy has deployed three out of its fleet of eleven nuclear powered supercarriers for operations in the Western Pacific, according to reports from multiple Japanese sources, with this deployment intended to strengthen the American military presence near China and North Korea. This marks the first deployment of carriers on such a scale in two years. Hours after reports of the large carrier deployment first emerged, it was confirmed that America’s prime class of intercontinental range nuclear-capable bomber the B-52H had been forward deployed to Guam in the Pacific. The U.S. Pacific Air Forces stated regarding the deployment: “B-52 Stratofortress bombers assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, landed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam at the end of January as part of a Bomber Task Force to support strategic deterrence missions aimed at reinforcing the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region.” The surge in the American military presence in the region comes as the Pentagon has struggled to finance its surge in operations in the Middle East ongoing since October, which alongside growing commitments in the Arctic and Eastern Europe has left resources stretched thin.
The U.S. previously similarly surged its military presence in East Asia in 2017, when three nuclear powered supercarriers were deployed in a show of force aimed at North Korea amid growing tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. B-52 and B-1 bomber deployments to Guam, flights over South Korea by the aircraft, and reports from serving American officials that the B-1 could have a hidden nuclear strike capability, between them placed pressure on North Korean defences. The Donald Trump administration’s plans for an attack on the East Asian country included mass nuclear strikes that were expected to kill millions of Koreans, according to then Defence Secretary James Mattis, although North Korea’s rapid strengthening of its nuclear and missile deterrents and high combat readiness were key to deterring an attack. Reports from Chinese government sources that Beijing would intervene by deploying its armed forces to protect its neighbour should it come under an unprovoked assault were another major factor. North Korean conventional and nuclear capabilities have since been improved tremendously, with Washington considered highly unlikely to contemplate an attack on the country today. In a recent interview in December 2023 the chief of staff to the George W. Bush administration’s secretary of state Colin Powell, Colonel (ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson, revealed that even before it had developed nuclear weapons the strength of North Korea’s conventional forces was sufficient to force Washington to revise its plans for an invasion of the country which was scheduled for 2002 or 2003.