North Korea celebrated its biggest holiday Saturday. April 15 marks the birthday of the first leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, who reigned for 46 years, and is also Kim Jung Un's grandfather.
Some fear this holiday, which is traditionally a time to parade soldiers and other military prowess, would be a perfect time to demonstrate nuclear capabilities. That's why a U.S. Navy strike group led by U.S.S. Carl Vinson is headed for the Korean Peninsula.
Earlier this week U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News the military was ready for a preemptive strike on North Korea if a nuclear test looks imminent. But two military analyst we heard from today think that's highly unlikely.
"It's just not going to happen. It's too risky," said retired General Barry McCaffrey. "I think this is the administration trying to provide some sort of military tension to make the Chinese act to restrain North Korea."
President Donald Trump recently hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, a meeting Trump says went well. China is a huge player in any sort of diplomacy in the region. It's a powerhouse, and North Korea lies on its southeastern border.
"They literally could bring North Korea to their knees almost immediately, by denying electrical power, fuel, by cutting off imports from North Korea," said McCaffrey.
But he believes the Chinese don't want to do that because it could cause an exodus of North Korean refugees headed across the border. North Korea has warned of military action if the U.S. shows signs of aggression, which a carrier group would most certainly constitute.
"They're paranoid and liable to do something stupid," said retired U.S. Army Colonel Jack Jacobs. "But I think because they rely so heavily on China, and China has come to the realization that they, China, has to act in order to prevent something really bad from happening. I think there's an opportunity for us to work together to prevent any kind of catastrophe."
Most certainly that would mean a counter-attack on neighboring South Korea, home to thousands of U.S. military members whose recent military exercises included artillery crews from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Then there's Japan. Earlier this month, North Korea launched a ballistic missile in its direction and dropped it into the sea just a couple hundred miles off the coastline. But the message was clear. This week, Japan sent a message of it own, as its navy joined the U.S. carrier group as it moves into position. North Korea's capabilities are getting better says the general.
"In the near future they'll have an ICBM capability that could strike Seattle and the West Coast," McCaffrey said.
Long term, both McCaffrey and Jacobs think North Korea will not abandon its nuclear program, at least not willingly. Short term, they both believe it will be a partnership between China and the U.S. that will ultimately get North Korea to the table.
"At the end of the day I think the objective, our objective and the Chinese objective, is to get the North Koreans behind closed doors and have serious discussions about solving the long term problem now, said Jacobs. "North Korea is not particularly interested in giving up their nuclear weapons, but I don't think they are going to fight to the death over it."
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