Carl Vinson to arrive in East Sea in days: Pence

SYDNEY/TOKYO-- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday that his country's aircraft carrier could arrive in the East Sea within days amid high tensions with North Korea.

Pence, who is visiting Australia, said in a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson is expected to be in waters east of the Korean peninsula no later than this month, according to Australian media.

Earlier, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported that the carrier and its strike group is to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula after completing training drills with the Australian Navy.

Pence, who is on the final leg of his Asia tour, also told media that he believes a nuclear-free Korean peninsula is possible because of the Trump administration's "engagement" with China. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a summit in Florida earlier this month.

Pence, former governor of Indiana, said that all options are on the table, and China is the key to influence North Korea, adding that if Beijing is unable to "deal" with Pyongyang, the U.S. and its allies will step up.

Tensions have been rising as North Korea could conduct additional provocations around next Tuesday, when the communist regime celebrates the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army with a show of its military power. Experts have been saying that North Korea may conduct its sixth nuclear test.

There was controversy after top U.S. officials misleadingly said last week that the USS Carl Vinson was heading to the Korean Peninsula to deter North Korea, with Trump saying he sent an "armada." But it turned out the aircraft carrier was actually moving in the opposite direction to participate in joint exercises with Australia.

North Korea has responded that it is not afraid of the U.S. forces. The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the North Korean regime, said in a commentary Saturday that "If the U.S. provokes the DPRK even a bit, its army and people will start a great war of justice for national reunification without hesitation." DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy said Friday that a Carl Vinson fighter pilot safely ejected during training in the Celebes Sea and was rescued by a helicopter without suffering injuries.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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