The U.S. Navy said it did not deploy the USS Carl Vinson to the Korean Peninsula as originally stated, but instead sent the aircraft carrier to participate in joint exercises with the Australian navy in the Indian Ocean.
During an appearance on Fox News last week, President Donald Trump said he was sending an "armada" to deter the regime of North Korea's Kim Jong Un.
"We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier," Trump said. "We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: [Kim Jong Un] is doing the wrong thing."
The USS Carl Vinson sails during a training mission in the Pacific. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D'Andre L. Roden)
But White House officials on April 18 said the USS Carl Vinson and its three support ships were sailing in the opposite direction to train with the Australian navy about 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.
The White House said the error in the administration's original statement about the aircraft carrier's location occurred because it relied on guidance from the Defense Department.
Officials said a glitch-ridden sequence of events, such as an ill-timed announcement of the deployment by U.S. Pacific Command and a partially erroneous explanation by the Defense Secretary James Mattis, perpetuated a false narrative that the aircraft carrier was racing toward the waters off North Korea, The New York Times reported.
The USS Carl Vinson will arrive near the Korean Peninsula next week.
"At the end of the day it resulted in confused strategic communication that has made our allies nervous," Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., told The Wall Street Journal. "If you don't have a consistency with your actual strategy and what you're doing with your military, that doesn't seem terribly convincing."
Initially, U.S. Pacific Command said it "ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group north [from Singapore] as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific."
U.S. Pacific Command's statement created some ambiguity, as it named North Korea but did not specifically say it deployed the ships to waters off North Korea.
"Third Fleet ships operate forward with a purpose: to safeguard U.S. interests in the Western Pacific. The No. 1 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," U.S. Pacific Command said.
The U.S. Navy released an image of the USS Carl Vinson traveling on the Sunda Strait near Indonesia on April 15, thousands of miles away from where the ship was widely expected to be.