US officials scramble to assure its Pacific allies that warships will be deterrent to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions
The U. S. sought to assure allies Wednesday that the USS Carl Vinson naval strike group is indeed headed to the northern Pacific as a deterrent to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But this came after days of misleading statements that the aircraft carrier and other ships had already been headed there.
“We’re sending an armada, very powerful, ” President Donald Trump declared April 11, three days after the strike group left Singapore.
Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the U. S. Pacific Command, had announced April 9 he was ordering the strike group to sail north after leaving Singapore and that it would not be making previously planned port visits in Australia.
However the strike group instead stayed in the western Pacific and conducted an abbreviated set of exercises with Australian forces. By last Saturday, the Vinson was sailing through the Sunda Strait, which separates the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, thousands of kilometers from the Korean peninsula.
An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137 “Kestrels” takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) flight deck in South China Sea, April 12, 2017.
On Wednesday, U. S. officials attempted to clarify the conflicting statements about the strike group’s whereabouts.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer noted Trump’s comment “that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That’s a fact, it’s happened. It is happening rather.”
“What part is misleading? I’ m trying to figure that out… I’ m not the one who commented on timing, ” said Spicer.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on a visit to Saudi Arabia, told reporters, “The Vinson, as I’ ve said on the record, was operating up and down the western Pacific. And we’ re doing exactly what we said. And that is, we’ re shifting her, instead of continuing one direction as she pulled out of Singapore she’s going to continue part of our cruise down in that region but she was on her way up to Korea.”
U. S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) departs after meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman (R) at the Ministry of Defense in Riyadh, April 19, 2017.
Mattis then said, “She will be on her way. And I’ ll determine when she gets there and where she actually operates. But the Vinson is going to be part of our ensuring that we stand by our allies in the northwest Pacific.”
The mixed messaging is being viewed by some as undermining the United States’ credible threat of military force against North Korea.

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