Politics White House denies misleading public in aircraft carrier mix-up

21:36  19 april  2017
21:36  19 april  2017 Source:   The Hill

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Aircraft carrier wasn’t moving toward North Korea when WH said it was © Provided by The Hill Aircraft carrier wasn’t moving toward North Korea when WH said it was

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday denied that the Trump administration misled the public when it was incorrectly announced last week that a U.S. aircraft carrier was heading toward the Sea of Japan.

"The president said that we have an armada going toward the [Korean Peninsula]. That is fact, it happened. It is happening, rather," Spicer said during a press briefing.

The Navy announced on April 9 that its Carl Vinson Strike Group would skip a regularly scheduled visit to Australia and head toward the western Pacific Ocean, a move the White House later said was meant as a deterrent to North Korea's recent provocations.

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  Move of U.S. Warships Shows Trump Has Few Options on North Korea <p>President Trump’s deployment of an aircraft carrier to the waters off the Korean Peninsula has raised tensions across East Asia.</p>China’s president, Xi Jinping, did not make any public commitment to tighten the pressure on North Korea during his meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., last week with President Trump. Even privately, officials said, he was circumspect. And an attack on North Korea carries far greater risk than the missile strike that Mr. Trump ordered last week to punish President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for his deadly chemical weapons attack.

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Asked about the decision to send those ships to North Korea during a White House press briefing last week, Spicer framed the move as a deterrent.

"A carrier group is several things. 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," he said at the time.

But those statements were contradicted by a Navy picture taken April 15 showing the strike force in the Sunda Strait, an area off the coast of Indonesia and thousands of miles from North Korea, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Administration officials described to the Times what the paper referred to as a "glitch-ridden sequence of events ... [that] perpetuated the false narrative that an American armada was racing toward the waters off North Korea."

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Spicer denied the White House had misled the public with his statements made last week and blamed the Pentagon for any confusion.

"[U.S. Pacific Command] put out a release talking about the group ultimately ending up in the Korean peninsula, that's what it will do," Spicer said.

"I think we were asked very clearly about the use of a carrier group in terms of a deterrence and foreign presence and what that meant. That's what we discussed. I would refer you back to any other issues with that to the Department of Defense."

Spicer added: "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."

The Defense Department told the Times that the Carl Vinson is now headed for Korea and will arrive in the area next week.

Lawmakers have ripped the mixup, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said in a radio interview Wednesday the miscommunication was "troubling."

"It certainly shows a breakdown in communications that is troubling because the president is commander-in-chief and Secretary Mattis apparently, according to press reports ... told him that this carrier and the destroyers were headed toward North Korea as a show of force. When in fact they were headed in the completely opposite direction to Australia. And its troubling if we don't know where our assets are," Collins said.

"It's also so surprising. Every time I have seen that map that shows where our naval assets are, believe me the Pentagon knows exactly where they are. So I suspect there was some just terrible miscommunication but it should not have occurred."

China launches first domestically-built aircraft carrier .
China on Wednesday launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier, which will join an existing one bought second-hand from the Ukraine, amid rising tensions over North Korea and worries about Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea. State media said the carrier, designed in China and built in the northeast port of Dalian, is not expected to enter service until 2020.The announcement by the official Xinhua news agency had been well-flagged as foreign military analysts and Chinese media have for months published satellite images, photographs and news stories about the second carrier's development.

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