Amid growing concerns about North Korea’s missile program, the US military has ordered a navy strike group to move towards the Korean peninsula.
The Carl Vinson Strike Group comprises an aircraft carrier and other warships.
US Pacific Command described the deployment – now heading towards the western Pacific – as a prudent measure to maintain readiness in the region.
President Donald Trump has said the US is prepared to act alone to deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea.
US Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham said: “The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”
The Carl Vinson Strike Group comprises the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser.
As well as massive striking power, the strike group has the capability to intercept ballistic missiles.
The group was originally due to make port calls in Australia but instead has been diverted from Singapore to the west Pacific – where it recently conducted exercises with the South Korean Navy.
North Korea has carried out several nuclear tests and experts predict more could be in the offing as the country moves closer towards developing a nuclear warhead with a big enough range to reach the US.
On April 5, North Korea test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile from its eastern port of Sinpo into the Sea of Japan.
The test – condemned by Japan and South Korea – came on the eve of a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to the US to meet President Donald Trump.
President Trump and President Xi discussed how to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs as the US steps up the pressure on China, a historic ally of Pyongyang, to help reduce tension.
However, China has been reluctant to isolate North Korea, fearing its collapse could spawn a refugee crisis and bring the US military to its doorstep.
President Trump said in interview with the Financial Times that Washington was ready to act without Beijing’s co-operation: “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”
North Korea is banned from any missile or nuclear tests by the UN, though it has repeatedly broken those sanctions.