We may think Kim Jong Un should be worried by the presence of three carrier strike groups near his shores, but he may not be all that concerned. “Lots of firepower can deter only if the intended target feels genuinely threatened by it,” June Teufel Dreyer, a University of Miami political science professor and a leading Asia watcher, told me. “The U.S. has backed off enough times in the past that Kim probably doesn’t believe that we will use the firepower on him.”
And as Arthur Waldron of the University of Pennsylvania has said many times, Washington has continually taught autocrats to disregard its warnings.
Should Kim think Trump is bluffing with the Carl Vinson, the Ronald Reagan, and the Nimitz and he proceeds with his launches and detonations, the American president will find himself in an uncomfortable position. As Dreyer points out, “Bringing in three carrier groups and not using them sends a bad signal.”