CNN reports: US President Donald Trump said he was sending “an armada” to Korean waters to potentially deal with threats from Pyongyang.
But its no-show has caused some South Koreans to question his leadership and strategy regarding their unpredictable neighbor in the north.
And as the country prepares to vote for a new president on May 9, the claim could have far-reaching implications for the two countries’ relations.
“What Mr. Trump said was very important for the national security of South Korea,” Presidential candidate Hong Joon-pyo told the Wall Street Journal.
“If that was a lie, then during Trump’s term, South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says,” said Hong, who is currently trailing in the polls.
South Korean media also seized on the conflicting reports on Trump’s “armada” — led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. [Continue reading…]
Phillip Carter writes: here is a sobering reality beyond this week’s strange “Where’s Waldo?” story of the USS Carl Vinson and its strike group: For a period of time, significant confusion existed as to the location of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group, one of the most potent weapons in the American arsenal, at a moment of high tension on the Korean peninsula.
Although not (yet) a major crisis, this incident portends deep problems with the White House, its chain of command, and its approach to national security. At best, the Vinson episode suggests policy gaps between the president and his top military advisers over how to act toward North Korea. Worse, it appears the president has not firmly established control over the chain of command—or that he possibly overdelegated authority to his generals and admirals. Further, this incident sends deeply disturbing signals to allies and adversaries regarding the president’s control over the military and the credibility of his statements, diluting the deterrent value of American words and actions.
Let’s start with two fundamental premises of U.S. civil-military relations. First, the president is the elected commander-in-chief of the military; short of declaring war, he has the power to order military deployments and operations, and be held politically accountable for them. Second, the president ought to know with accuracy the locations and readiness of major U.S. military assets, and have the ability to command those forces as needed to protect the country.
Any departure from these norms stands out as potentially threatening to national security. When in 2007 the Air Force lost track of nuclear weapons and inadvertently allowed them to fly over the continental United States mounted on a bomber, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates rightfully saw the incident as an abomination and fired the Air Force leadership. [Continue reading…]