White House defends portrayal of 'armada' push toward Korean peninsula

Ausiliatrice Cristiano
Aprile 20, 2017

When it was announced that a carrier strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson was being deployed to the Korean Peninsula, it was seen as a ratcheting up of tensions with North Korea, which was reported to be on the verge of a nuclear test. As is customary, the US Navy did not say exactly where the carrier force was headed or its precise mission.

"After departing Singapore on April 8 and cancelling a scheduled port visit to Perth, the Strike Group was able to complete a curtailed period of previously scheduled training with Australia in worldwide waters off the northwest coast of Australia", a US Pacific Command spokesman said in a statement.

The strike group was now "proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered".

The perceived communications mix-up has raised eyebrows among Korea experts, who wonder whether it erodes the Trump administration's credibility at a time when US rhetoric about the North's advancing nuclear and missile capabilities are raising concerns about a potential conflict.

White House officials on Tuesday said that they had been relying on guidance from the US Department of Defense. Very powerful. We have submarines.

And President Donald Trump himself spoke about the deployment, saying the United States was sending a "very powerful" armada toward North Korea.

Last week, the White House claimed that that an aircraft carrier strike group was on its way to the Korean peninsula from southern Asia, when in fact it was sailing in the opposite direction.

The US Navy said on 8 April that the Carl Vinson strike group was travelling to the Korean peninsula amid tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

Singapore-based security expert Ian Storey said countries in the region would have found the confusion over the strike group's location "unsettling and perplexing". Photos released by the Navy showed instead that on Saturday it was in the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java and then the Indian Ocean.

Another reporter warned that U.S. allies like South Korea and Japan could interpret the mix-up as "false encouragement" that the U.S. was responding to provocations from North Korea.

His words came after the North held a show of military might in a parade over the weekend and tested another missile on Sunday, which blew up nearly immediately after launch, the Pentagon said.

Both a spokesperson for the U.S. Pacific Command, in a statement to TPM, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, in an interview Wednesday, did not acknowledge any misleading statements.

Officials said there had been a lack of follow-up with commanders overseeing the aircraft carrier's movements.

It was revealed this week that the so-called armada, known as the USS Carl Vinson, is only now moving towards the Korean Peninsula.

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