White House defends portrayal of 'armada' push towards Korean peninsula
By Jeff Mason and Doina Chiacu
When asked to clarify President Trump's statements last week about sending an "armada" as a warning to North Korea even though the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group was heading in the opposite direction, White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said, "the President said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula, that is a fact, it happened, it is happening rather. "
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's administration on Wednesday denied being misleading about a U.S. carrier strike group's push toward the Korean peninsula, saying it never gave an arrival date and that the ships were still on their way.
When Trump boasted early last week that he had sent an "armada" as a warning to North Korea, the USS Carl Vinson strike group was still far from the Korean peninsula, and headed in the opposite direction.
The U.S. military's Pacific Command explained on Tuesday that the strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-initially planned period of training with Australia but was now heading toward the Western Pacific.
"The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact. It happened. It is happening, rather," said White House spokesman Sean Spicer.
He referred further queries about the deployment timetable to the Pentagon.
The U.S. military initially said in a statement dated April 10 that Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of Pacific Command, directed the Vinson strike group "to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific."
But the strike group first headed elsewhere, On April 15, the U.S. Navy even published a photo showing the Vinson transiting the Sunda Strait on its way to drills with Australia. http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=235255
Reuters and other news outlets reported on April 11 that the movement would take more than a week. But the Navy, for security reasons, says it does not report future operational locations of its ships.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis looked to address confusion over the issue on Wednesday, telling reporters travelling with him in the Middle East that the alteration in the Vinson's schedule had been disclosed in the interest of transparency.
"We are doing exactly what we said we were going to do. She will be on her way," he said.
The strike group's commander, Rear Admiral Jim Kirby, said in a Facebook post this week that the deployment had even been extended 30 days "to provide a persistent presence in the waters off the Korean Peninsula."
A Trump administration official told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington was concerned about the possibility of some kind of North Korean provocation around the time of the South Korean election on May 9.
"There is precedent going back to the 1990s and early 2000s where there are provocations timed to South Korean political events," he said.
(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Riyadh, and David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney)
Iran was behind cyber attack on British lawmakers in June - The Times Cables and computers are seen inside a data centre at an office in the heart of the financial district in London, Britain May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez LONDON (Reuters) - Iran carried out a cyber attack on British...READ MORE...
China confirms will amend party constitution, likely to include Xi's theories A picture shows Chinese President Xi Jinping's portrait during an exhibition displaying China's achievements for the past five years, as a part of the celebrations of the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist...READ MORE...
Gunmen attack Kenyan school, killing six children: officials NAIROBI (Reuters) - Seven people, six of them children, were killed in northern Kenya on Saturday when unknown assailants attacked a school, officials said. Cattle rustling and clashes over grazing and farming land are relatively common...READ MORE...
U.S.-backed SDF to let Syrian Islamic State fighters leave RaqqaBy John Davison and Tom Perry Children play inside a truck at a refugee camp for people displaced because of fightings between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State militants in Ain Issa, Syria October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Erik...READ MORE...