Saturday, 22 July, 2017

US Defense Secretary Mattis addresses confusion over carrier

China and Russia send spy vessels to follow US naval group headed to North Korea Trump rattles seaborne saber at North Korea, but his fleet was in wrong ocean headed the wrong way
Alfredo Watts | 20 April, 2017, 05:54

Imagine everyone's surprise, then, when the US Navy released a picture of the USS Carl Vinson off the coast of Indonesia.

As worries deepened last week about whether North Korea would conduct a missile test, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal and give President Trump more options in responding to the North's provocative behavior.
Instead it was heading south for military drills with Australia in the Indian Ocean. 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.

The White House is now facing questions about why it was not clear about the carrier group's whereabouts. Navy officials announced April 9 that the Vinson was canceling planned port calls in Australia to return to the Western Pacific, ahead of what some believed might be a North Korean nuclear missile test in honor of the rogue nation's April 15 "Day of the Sun" national holiday.

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". In an interview that aired April 12, President Trump said the United States was sending ships.

"There is precedent going back to the 1990s and early 2000s where there are provocations timed to South Korean political events", he said.

North Korea had just launched a Scud extended-range missile, only the latest in a series of launches by the rogue state in the first four months of 2017. Others speculate the "armada" had been meant to change course, but then Washington made a decision to delay the timing to buy time for China after Trump's phone call with President Xi Jinping on April 11. That is, we were shifting her.

The North Korean missile, which was sacked from the Sinpo area, exploded nearly immediately, according to military officials in South Korea and the US.

A Korean English-language newspaper, The Korea Herald, reported the fleet is now expected to arrive on April 25, later than defense officials had previously indicated.

"We're sending an armada", Trump told Fox News on April 11.

"Our mission is to reassure allies and our partners of our steadfast commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region", Kilby wrote. "The forward deployment is deterrence, presence".

But US officials clarified to CNN that the carrier group would be conducting some training with Australian forces and possibly Japanese forces prior to heading to the Korean peninsula.