The USS Carl Vinson remains off the coast of north-west Australia, a defense official said. Photograph: US navy/EFE
The USS Carl Vinson remains off the coast of north-west Australia, a defense official said. Photograph: US navy/EFE

How Donald Trump's North Korea 'armada' was actually sailing in wrong direction


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An aircraft carrier which the US navy said was already steaming toward the Korean Peninsula amid rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has not yet departed, a US defense official acknowledged Tuesday.

The navy on 8 April said it was directing a naval strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson supercarrier to “sail north”, as a “prudent measure” to deter North Korea.

 “We’re sending an armada, Very powerful,” Mr. Trump said to Fox News last Tuesday afternoon, ahead of North Korea’s military parade and failed missile launch over the weekend, and the vice-president, Mike Pence, on Monday declared that the era of US “strategic patience” in dealing with Pyongyang was over.

Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, responded with his usual harsh speech, threatening to conduct weekly missile tests.

It seems now that the US carriers  were still off the north-west coast of Australia, a defense official told AFP Tuesday.  A navy photograph showed the Vinson off Java over the weekend.

“They are going to start heading north towards the Sea of Japan within the next 24 hours,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The official added that the strike group wouldn’t be in the region before next week at the earliest.

The story of the wayward carrier might never have come to light had the Navy not posted a photo online Monday of the Carl Vinson sailing south through the Sunda Strait, which separates the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, as reported in The New York Times. It was taken on Saturday, four days after the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, described its mission in the Sea of Japan.

While the media focused on the US aircraft next movements, vice president Mike Pence concluded his official visit to Japan by ensuring an "overwhelming and effective" response to any attack, especially from North Korea.

"North Korea is the most dangerous and urgent threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific," Pence said aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, currently stationed in the Japanese port of Yokosuka, the largest US maritime headquarters in the region.

The new US administration "will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready," he warned.

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