The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier that the Trump administration had said was steaming toward North Korea was actually conducting exercises off the coast of Australia, a U.S. defense official has acknowledged.
Last week, Trump boasted that he was sending an "armada" to North Korea. "Very powerful," he added.
Just a few days later, on April 15, the U.S. Navy published a photo showing the USS Carl Vinson Strike Group transiting the Sunda Strait. From April 16 to 18, the website Go Navy reported that the Vinson group was in the Indian Ocean. Oops!
What followed was a glorified rendition of Willoughby the hound dog-- with White House and Defense officials contradicting each other and pointing fingers. A Defense Department spokesperson was unsure if the Navy had had any
conversations with Defense Secretary Mattis’ office or the Joint Staff
following the mix-up, but said it was “not the Navy’s place” to speak
with the White House about it.
The communications mix-up has raised eyebrows among Korea experts. "If you threaten them and your threat is not credible, it's only going to undermine whatever your policy toward them is. And that could be a logical conclusion from what's just happened," said North Korea expert Joel Wit at the 38 North monitoring group, run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
The White House had no comment, referring questions to the Pentagon. The Pentagon directed all queries to U.S. Pacific Command.