The armada Trump bragged about sending to North Korea last week was actually headed in the opposite direction, according to a new report from the New York Times.
In an interview with Fox Business that aired on April 12, President Trump declared that the United States was “sending an armada” to deal with the threat posed by the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s refusal to stop testing weapons.
“We are sending an armada. Very powerful,” Trump said.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 12, 2017
Trump’s comments came on the heels of news reports that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group was headed toward North Korea — news seemingly confirmed by a strike group spokesman.
The day before Trump’s Fox Business interview aired, Press Secretary Sean Spicer also seemed to confirm the strike group was on the way to North Korea, saying during a news conference that “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.”
“But I think when you see a carrier group steaming into an area like that, the forward presence of that is clearly, through almost every instance, a huge deterrence,” he added. “So I think it serves multiple capabilities.”
News of the strike group’s proximity to North Korea contributed to an alarming NBC report that the U.S. military was “prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test.”
But turns out it was all false— the strike group wasn’t en route to North Korea last week after all.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that while Trump and Spicer were touting the strike group’s new mission to North Korea, “the Carl Vinson [and] the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.”
The White House is blaming the Defense Department for the mistake.
“White House officials said on Tuesday they were relying on guidance from the Defense Department,” the Times reports. “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.”
A key to unraveling the confusion, the Times reports, was a photo taken Saturday and posted online by the Navy on Monday showing the Carl Vision sailing through Indonesian islands thousands of miles away from North Korea.
If it makes anyone feel better, the Times reports that the strike group “is now on a northerly course for the Korean Peninsula and is expected to arrive in the region sometime next week,” according to Defense Department officials.
News of the USS Carl Vinson strike group’s true location was first broken by Defense News.