US Didn't Have Its Aircraft Carrier Anywhere Near North Korea

The U.S. Navy announced April 9 it was moving the USS Carl Vinson strike group north to position in the western Pacific. But it moved south.
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US Didn't Have Its Aircraft Carrier Anywhere Near North Korea

Media outlets across the country reported the USS Carl Vinson strike group was on its way to the Korean Peninsula last week. Some even reported it had arrived in the area ahead of expected North Korean missile tests.

That actually wasn't the case — despite implications from the Trump administration, the U.S. didn't have an aircraft carrier strike group near North Korea last weekend. Defense News notes photos posted from the carrier put it thousands of miles from the peninsula and traveling in the opposite direction.

Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. rose ahead of the isolated nation's annual celebration of its founding, when it was expected to test its nuclear program. Reports that the U.S. would position its strike group in the area didn't help.

"The government told us, 'If the U.S. dares to choose a military option ... the DPRK is willing and ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.,'" CNN reporter Will Ripley said April 12.

So here's a timeline of what happened:

On April 8, the aircraft carrier and its strike group left Singapore. The next day, the U.S. Navy announced the commander of U.S. Pacific Command directed the USS Carl Vinson strike group to head north. It said the group would skip out on "previously planned port visits to Australia."

A spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command said the move was to "maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific." Citing missile tests, he then said North Korea remained "the No. 1 threat in the region."

On April 11, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked whether the point of moving the ships was to send a message to North Korea.

"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," Spicer said.

But on April 12, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: "There is no particular objective in its current course. The Vinson sails up and down the Pacific routinely, and so I would not read anything into the Carl Vinson's current locations."

In an interview that aired April 12 on Fox Business Network, President Donald Trump was asked about the redirection of the ships.

"What are we doing right now in terms of North Korea?" Maria Bartiromo asked. 

"You never know, do you? You never know," Trump replied. "... We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful."

Based on the U.S. Navy's own photos, the USS Carl Vinson strike group was in the South China Sea from April 8 to April 14 — still far from the Korean Peninsula.

The photos show the strike group in the Indian Ocean on April 14 and April 15. That means it was even farther away from the Korean Peninsula when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un conducted his failed missile test over the weekend.

According The New York Times, the White House said it got its information from the U.S. Department of Defense. The Times reports defense officials "described a glitch-ridden sequence of events" that led to the reports.

Citing unnamed officials, CNN reports the strike group is expected to be in the area near the Korean Peninsula within the next two weeks. 

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