Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea reached new heights recently with reports that a U.S. strike group, lead by the USS Carl Vinson, was heading toward the Korean Peninsula as a show of strength and to act as a deterrence. North Korea responded by vowing reprisals in response and Russia and China sent intelligence-gathering ships to monitor the U.S. actions. However, it was all a misunderstanding as neither the USS Carl Vinson nor any strike group was headed there yet. What?
The revelation calls into question a recent exchange during a White House press briefing where Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked what the point was of putting a carrier group in the Sea of Japan, and he said, “A carrier group is several things. The forward deployment is deterrence, presence. It’s prudent. But it does a lot of things. It ensures our — we have the strategic capabilities, and it gives the President options in the region.”
In reality, according to the New York Times, the USS Carl Vinson and the four warships in its strike group were headed to the Indian Ocean to take part in exercises with the Australian navy.
White House officials said on Tuesday they were relying on guidance from the Defense Department. Officials there described a glitch-ridden sequence of events, from a premature announcement of the deployment by the military’s Pacific Command to an erroneous explanation by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — all of which perpetuated the false narrative that an American armada was racing toward the waters off North Korea.
This false narrative fed into Trump’s muscular image after the Syrian strikes and stoked fears that a preemptive attack on North Korea was in the works. It’s unlikely any of this would have been made public had the Navy not taken and posted a photo of the USS Carl Vinson sailing through Indonesia days after Spicer publicly stated the strike group’s mission.
However, according to the Defense Department, the strike group is now on its way to the Korean Peninsula in a show of strength and to act as a deterrent. But, according to the Times:
officials expressed bewilderment that the Pentagon did not correct its timeline, particularly given the tensions surging in the region and the fact that Mr. Spicer, as well as the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, were publicly answering questions about it.
(Via New York Times)