S. Korea duped by Trump: US carrier not making way toward the peninsula
Posted : 2017-04-19 17:26
Updated : 2017-04-20 11:39
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the Indian Ocean, April 15. / Reuters-Yonhap
By Jun Ji-hye
The Donald Trump administration is causing a stir for a false narrative — intended or not — that a U.S. Navy strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was ordered to waters off the Korean Peninsula from Singapore, April 8.
Since then, expectations were that the carrier group would arrive near the peninsula around April 15 when North Korea was scheduled to celebrate the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il-sung. At that time, the North was expected to conduct a major provocation such as a nuclear test.
However, the strike group was operating in the Indian Ocean in scheduled exercises with Australian forces. This means the ships actually sailed in the opposite direction after the U.S. Navy's Third Fleet issued a news release saying U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander Admiral Harry Harris had ordered the group to leave Singapore and sail to the Western Pacific instead of Australia.
Photos released by the U.S. Navy, Saturday, showed the Carl Vinson sailing in the Sunda Strait off the coast of Indonesia, thousands of kilometers southwest of the peninsula.
The unexpected location of the carrier would have never been known to the public if the Navy had not posted the photos.
This caused criticism as for more than a week news about the arrival of the same ships had been on the front pages here with concerns growing that the Trump administration would launch a pre-emptive strike on the North, which could lead to a full-scale war. Rumors of a "Korean War in April" also spread quickly on social media.
On April 9, PACOM spokesman Commander David Benham called North Korea "the number one threat in the region," referring to the dispatch of the ships to the Western Pacific. This highly implied the dispatch was aimed at reining in the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang.
On that day, U.S. National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster also told Fox News that the dispatch was a "prudent" move to give President Trump "a full range of options" to remove North Korean threats.
Then, President Trump said during an interview with Fox Business Network, aired April 12, "We are sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you," further convincing the public of the imminent arrival of the strike group.
The New York Times reported that the story about the ships may have resulted from a "glitch-ridden sequence of events, from an ill-timed announcement of the deployment by the military's Pacific Command to a partially erroneous explanation by the defense secretary, Jim Mattis — all of which perpetuated the false narrative that a flotilla was racing toward the waters off North Korea."
Mattis earlier said at the Pentagon that exercises with the Australian forces had been canceled, saying, "We had to explain why she wasn't in that exercise."
Pentagon officials were also quoted as saying by The New York Times that rolling back the story became difficult, with President Trump himself playing up the show of force.
A senior administration official told CNN, on condition of anonymity, that a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House as well as a lack of follow-up with commanders overseeing the movements of the aircraft carrier should be blamed.
Park Won-gon, an international relations professor at Handong Global University, said, "I presume that not coming to Korean waters without telling anyone would have been a choice of strategic ambiguity, but accurate information will be available only when the U.S. government expresses its official position on the matter."
He added the South Korean government could have been offended.
Meanwhile, CNN quoted multiple U.S. defense officials as saying that the strike group, including the USS Carl Vinson and its 80-plus aircraft, the guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, and the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain, will come to the peninsula at the end of April.
Sources here also said the ships are expected to arrive around April 25 when the North celebrates the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army.