On Wednesday, White House’s spokesperson Sean Spicer acknowledged that the White House had no idea where the Carl Vinson Strike Group was located last week when the president said the aircraft career was on its way to the Sea of Japan. Spicer dismissed the charges that the administration knowingly misled the public on the issue.
The president said that we have an armada going toward the [Korean Peninsula]. That is fact. It happened. It is happening, rather,
Trump’s spokesman said Wednesday.
White House’s Confusing Statements
On Apr. 9, the Defense Department said the strike group would no longer head to Australia as it needed to change course to the western Pacific in response to North Korea’s recent provocations. Last week, Spicer said the move was designed to be a deterrent to Pyongyang’s scheduled missile tests.
Spicer said last week that the career group’s presence off South Korea coast had multiple functions. It represented “deterrence” and “presence” and it gave the U.S. “options in the region”. Like Spicer’s words weren’t confusing enough, Defense Secretary James Mattis unveiled at the time that the strike group was moving to the Sea of Japan, but declined to link a specific reason to the move.
Gen. Mattis said the aircraft career and two other ships were operating “freely up and down the Pacific” because the Pentagon believed it was “most prudent” to have them stationed there. Navy imagery, on the other hand, revealed that on Apr. 15 the strike group was located in the Sunda Strait, a region located near Indonesia and thousands of miles off the North Korean shoreline.
Military officials who handed the images to the New York Times said that a “glitch-ridden sequence of events” left the public with the impression that the U.S. ordered an “armada” to race toward North Korea.
White House Lays the Blame on Defense Department
Spicer on Wednesday said the White House had no intention of misleading the public and blamed the Pentagon for any misunderstanding. He underlined that the U.S. Pacific Command had said the strike force ended up in the Korean Peninsula, not the White House.
Spicer added that the White House “discussed” the situation only in terms of “deterrence” and “presence”. He referred any other reporters’ questions to the Department of Defense.
When one reporter asked him about misleading the public, Spicer replied:
What part is misleading? I’m trying to figure that out. We answered the question on what signal it sent. I’m not the one who commented on timing.
Pentagon officials told the Times that the U.S. strike group was heading to Korea and should arrive there next week.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) commented on the administration’s confusing signals. She deemed the miscommunication between the White House and the Pentagon “troubling.” Collins underlined that Mattis told Trump the armada was heading toward the Korean Penisula in a show of force, when in reality the ships were heading in the opposite direction, to Australia.
And its troubling if we don’t know where our assets are,
the lawmaker added.
Collins also said that since the Pentagon knew “exactly” where the ships were, there must have been a “terrible miscommunication” within the administration which should not have occurred in the first place.
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