Update:

First feedback from North Korea White House meeting. Heard on CNN and from Bloomberg News:

Meeting lasted about 15 minutes. (Another report says about one hour)

Edit: The 15 minutes referred to above are apparently “all of [the]14 minutes [Trump spent] in briefing with senators on ‘military preparation’ for North Korea.” The entire meeting lasted about one hour.

President Trump spoke briefly.

A joint statement by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, after the briefing: President Trump “aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners.” See full statement below.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford also attended the meeting.

One of the things being considered is putting North Korea on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) told CNN the meeting covered many topics already reported in the media: “I learned nothing new…not quite sure why [we] had to go all the way to the White House.”

Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) found the meeting “sobering and serious,” CNN reported.

Others: “No revelations.”

Joint Statement by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

Past efforts have failed to halt North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs and nuclear and ballistic missile tests. With each provocation, North Korea jeopardizes stability in Northeast Asia and poses a growing threat to our allies and the U.S. homeland.

North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority. Upon assuming office, President Trump ordered a thorough review of U.S. policy pertaining to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Today, along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford, we briefed members of Congress on the review. The president’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners.

We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK in order to convince the regime to de-escalate and return to the path of dialogue. We will maintain our close coordination and cooperation with our allies, especially the Republic of Korea and Japan, as we work together to preserve stability and prosperity in the region.

The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.

~~

Breaking Update:

As this is being written, one hundred U.S. Senators are loading onto buses at Capitol Hill to attend a classified briefing at the White House on North Korea.

Originally scheduled to take place at a secured room at the Capitol, Trump asked to have the meeting moved to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building auditorium, which will be converted into a “sensitive compartmented information facility,” according to Fox News.

Fox News:

Some aides on the Hill have expressed confusion about the circumstances of the meeting. Salon wrote, “this could be a preparation for war—or just a forced attempt at a pre-100 days photo op.”

The meeting will be attended by some of Trump’s top cabinet members, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—who will chair the meeting– and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Fox News adds — for whatever it’s worth: “Local governments in the Washington, D.C., are planning a ‘full-scale’ terror attack drill for Wednesday. The drill prepares for an attack involving multiple locations and ‘teams of perpetrators’ – and will be staged at six sites across the District of Columbia and the Virginia and Maryland suburbs.”

Several Democrats have called the unprecedented meeting, “showboating.”

It is not known if Trump will attend the meeting.

Stay tuned.

[Scroll down for more updates]

As North Korea Speeds Its Nuclear Program [and the] U.S. Fears Time Will Run Out,” an Ohio-class submarine arrives in the region.

In what the U.S. Navy calls “yet another example of steadfast ROK [Republic of Korea] and U.S. naval partnership,” the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan arrived in Busan, April 25 (local time).

The Navy adds, “During the visit Sailors will experience the culture and history of the ROK, as well as foster outstanding relations between the U.S. Navy, ROK military and the local Busan community.”

During a Fox Business News interview earlier this month, president Trump said, “We are sending an armada. Very powerful…We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you.”

CNN: “Analysts at the time suspected Trump might be referring to Ohio-class subs like the Michigan.”

According to the Navy, the USS Michigan is one of four Ohio-class guided-missile submarines providing the Navy with unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities from a stealthy, clandestine platform. Armed with tactical missiles and equipped with superior communications capabilities, guided-missile submarines are capable of launching missile strikes and supporting Special Operation Forces (SOF) missions.

The Michigan measures more than 560 feet long and weighs more than 18,000 tons when submerged — one of the largest submarines in the world.

Each of the four submarines can carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles. They are also outfitted to stealthily deploy up to 66 Navy SEALs or other special operations troops and their equipment, according to CNN.

Defense News adds:

Perhaps even more significant…[the] 66 special operations personnel…can use the two foremost former missile tubes as lockout chambers to carry out surveillance and clandestine insertion and recovery missions. The submarines…are capable of precise navigation in close waters, a legacy of the highly-capable navigation systems needed for the original ballistic missile mission.

Updates:

April 27 – Defense News reports that the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan may join the Carl Vinson Strike Group off the Korean Peninsula late next month after completing four months of maintenance.

The Ronald Reagan will carry out landing practice on the island of Iwo Jima between May 2 and 13.:

Before heading out to [sea], the 100 pilots assigned to the carrier must perform 4,200 touch and go trials on a land runway… This involves landing and then immediately thrusting to take-off again. This is meant to simulate complications that can occur on the much smaller carrier runways.

Following these exercises, the Ronald Reagan “could be off the coast of the Korean Peninsula by the end of the month.”

~~
April 26:

Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command, discusses whether U.S. forces can defend themselves against missiles launched from North Korea during a House Armed Services Committee hearing, April 26, 2017. Watch video below.

)
April 26, 2017: The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), foreground, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Atago-class guided-missile destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), left, and the JMSDF Murasame-class destroyer JS Samidare (DD 106) transit the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Released)

April 24, 2017: An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the “Blue Hawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78 fires chaff flares during a training exercise near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Released)

April 25, 2017: The guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) fires its Mark 45 5-inch gun during a bilateral training exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force guided-missile destroyer JS Choukai (DDG 176). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William McCann/Released)

April 23:

In the meantime, this time really on its way towards the Korean Peninsula, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is seen in this DoD photo (below) transiting the Philippine Sea on April 23.

April 26 (Foreign Policy):

On April 26, the USS Carl Vinson was still working its way northward, after taking part in exercises with the Japanese navy in the Philippine Sea earlier this week, putting the strike group somewhere south of Japan. “The exercises consisted of “combined air training and information sharing to increase interoperability and communication” among the services.” Several other U.S. destroyers are conducting exercises in the Sea of Japan and near the South Korean coast with the Japanese and South Korean navies See below).

~~

Other U.S. Navy ships are conducting simultaneous bilateral maritime exercises with the Republic of Korea Navy and with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force today and tomorrow (April 25-26, local time).

The destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (second photo, below) and ROKN Wang Geon are conducting combined maritime exercises in waters west of the Korean Peninsula while the destroyers USS Fitzgerald (below) and JMSDF JS Chokai execute combined maritime exercises in waters west of Japan.

Official U.S. Navy file photo of the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald ), right, taking part in Exercise Malabar 2009 with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JDS Kurama , April 30, 2009.

Official U.S. Navy file photo of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) transiting the South China Sea, April 11, 2017.

Lead photo: USS Michigan arrives in Busan, April 25. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Jermaine Ralliford)

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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