The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group’s deployment has been extended by 30 days to patrol the waters off the Korean Peninsula as tensions deepen on with the rogue North Korean regime.
Strike Group boss Rear Adm. James Kilby made the announcement on the carrier’s Facebook page late Tuesday evening.
"Our deployment has been extended 30 days to provide a persistent presence in the Waters off the Korean Peninsula," the post said. "While all of us look forward to being connected with our friends and families, our nation requires us to be its flexible force, the away team, and as we have done time and time again through history, we won’t let her down now."
The news comes 10 days after U.S. Pacific Command head Adm. Harry Harris canceled Vinson's planned Australia port visit, which was widely seen as a message to North Korea. The Vinson was recently in Singapore for a port call, and has wrapped up an abbreviated exercise with the Australian Navy near Indonesia.
Kilby said the mission was to assure America's allies in the region of its commitment to the region as North Korea has accelerated its missile testing program and is widely believed to be poised to light off a sixth nuclear test.
Our mission is to reassure allies and our partners of our steadfast commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," the post continued. "We will continue to be the centerpiece of visible maritime deterrence, providing our national command authority with flexible deterrent options, all domain access, and a visible forward presence."
The San Diego-based Vinson deployed in early January and was at tail end of what was expected to be a five-month deployment. Joining Vinson is Carrier Air Wing 2, as well as the destroyers Michael Murphy and Wayne E. Meyer, and the cruiser Lake Champlain.
The regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has launched more than half a dozen missiles since President Trump took office in January, which is seen as a test of the new administration.
The rising threat has prompted the U.S. and South Korean governments to agree to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system, designed to shoot down some missiles, over strenuous Chinese opposition and widespread anxiety over the move in South Korea itself. North Korea's missiles are already capable for striking many key U.S. allies, including Japan and South Korea.
Experts warn that the tests show North Korea is getting closer to its goal of producing a nuclear-tipped rocket able to reach the United States, and that they are working on solid-state rocket fuel that can enable a launch with very short notice.
Many see that as an unacceptable situation. The Trump administration has been floating the possibility of preemptive strikes, but China is pushing the U.S. to engage in direct diplomacy with Kim's government to try and get them to halt their development.
The strike group brings with it a ton of firepower, including the strike- and air-combat capabilities of the Hornets, early warning radars, electronic-warfare capabilities and more than 300 missile tubes on the carrier’s escorts.
President Trump views North Korea as the biggest threat to peace in the world, and recently dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to Korea to issue a stern warning that the U.S. had lost its patience with the North.
"The era of strategic patience is over and while all options are on the table, President Trump is determined to work closely with Japan, with South Korea, with all our allies in the region and with China to achieve a peaceable resolution and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Pence said at a press conference Monday.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the scheduled length of the Vinson Carrier Strike Group's deployment.