Trump threatened North Korea with 'armada' that was headed toward Australia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When U.S. President Donald Trump boasted early last week that he had sent an "armada" as a warning to North Korea, the aircraft carrier strike group he spoke of was still far from the Korean peninsula, and headed in the opposite direction.

It was even farther away over the weekend, moving through the Sunda Strait and then into the Indian Ocean, as North Korea displayed what appeared to be new missiles at a parade and staged a failed missile test.

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 it was now "proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered," it said.

RELATED: VP Mike Pence visits South Korea

15 PHOTOS
VP Mike Pence visits South Korea
See Gallery
VP Mike Pence visits South Korea
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the National Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is greeted by National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun during their meeting in Seoul, South Korea, April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence talks with National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun during their meeting in Seoul, South Korea, April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with U.S. soldier during a meeting with U.S. and South Korean soldiers at Camp Bonifas near the truce village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence answers a reporter's question at the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea, April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence looks toward the north from an observation post inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands next to his daughter looking toward the north through a pair of binocular from an observation post inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the National Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrives at Camp Bonifas near the truce village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with commander General Vincent K. Brooks during an Easter fellowship dinner at a military base in Seoul, South Korea, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, left, burns incense at the National Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April. 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ahn Young-joon/Pool
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, third left, shakes hands with military officials at Camp Bonifas near the truce village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, on Monday, April 17, 2017. Pence�encouraged China to take action against North Korea while he met with troops a day after Kim Jong Un's regime defied the Trump administration with a ballistic missile test. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 16: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence arrive at Osan airbase on April 16, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. During the three day visit to South Korea, Vice President Pence will spend Easter Sunday with the U.S. and S. Korean troops and their families. He will also meet with Korea's acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn, the national assembly speaker Chung Sye-kyun and local business leaders. (Photo by Song Kyung-Seok-Pool/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 17: (L to R) U.S. Vice President Mike Pence talks with South Korean acting president and prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn during their meeting on April 17, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. During the three day visit to South Korea, Vice President Pence spends Easter Sunday with the U.S. and S. Korean troops and their families, meet with Korea's acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn and the national assembly speaker Chung Sye-kyun, then meet with the local business leaders. (Photo by South Korean Acting President and Prime Minister Office- Pool/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The perceived communications mix-up has raised eyebrows among Korea experts, who wonder whether it erodes the Trump administration's credibility at a time when U.S. rhetoric about the North's advancing nuclear and missile capabilities are raising concerns about a potential conflict.

"If you threaten them and your threat is not credible, it's only going to undermine whatever your policy toward them is. And that could be a logical conclusion from what's just happened," said North Korea expert Joel Wit at the 38 North monitoring group, run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

The U.S. military initially said in a statement dated April 10 that Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of Pacific Command, directed the Carl Vinson strike group "to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific."

Reuters and other news outlets reported on April 11 that the movement would take more than a week. The Navy, for security reasons, says it does not report future operational locations of its ships.

SEE ALSO: Georgia special election heads for runoff between Ossoff, Handel

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis initially appeared to play down the deployment on April 11, saying the Vinson was "just on her way up there because that's where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time."

"There's not a specific demand signal or specific reason why we're sending her up there," he said.

RELATED: Poll - How much of a threat does North Korea pose to the United States?

But even Mattis initially misspoke about the strike group's itinerary, telling a news conference that the Vinson had pulled out of an exercise with Australia.

The Pentagon has since corrected the record, saying the ship's planned port visit to Fremantle, Australia, was canceled - not the exercise with Australia's navy.

On April 15, the U.S. Navy even published a photo showing the Vinson transiting the Sunda Strait. http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=235255

RELATED: Inside North Korea's secretive missile program

11 PHOTOS
Inside North Korea's secretive missile program
See Gallery
Inside North Korea's secretive missile program
A missile is carried by a military vehicle during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-1953 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY ANNIVERSARY)
Engineers check the base of Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
A North Korean scientist looks at a monitor showing the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control centre of the Korean Committee of Space Technology on the outskirts of Pyongyang April 11, 2012. North Korea said on Wednesday it was injecting fuel into a long-range rocket ahead of a launch condemned by its neighbours and the West. The launch is set to take place between Thursday and next Monday and has prompted neighbours such as the Philippines to re-route their air traffic. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
North Korean soldiers salute in a military vehicle carrying a missile during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-1953 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY ANNIVERSARY)
Ko Yun-hwa (L), Administrator of Korea Meteorological Administration, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A sales assistant watches TV sets broadcasting a news report on North Korea's nuclear test, in Seoul, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Workers construct a new nuclear reactor in the North Korean village of Kumho in this file photo taken August 7, 2002. The United States urged North Korea December 21, 2002 not to restart a nuclear reactor suspected of being used to make weapons-grade plutonium. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that North Korea had disabled surveillance devices the agency had placed at the five-megawatt Nyongbyong reactor. REUTERS/Lee Jae-won/File Photo LJW/RCS/AA
A passenger walks past a television report on North Korea's nuclear test at a railway station in Seoul February 12, 2013. North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Tuesday, South Korea's defence ministry said, after seismic activity measuring 4.9 magnitude was registered by the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicentre of the seismic activity, which was only one km below the Earth's surface, was close to the North's known nuclear test site. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A scientist stands beside the Kwangmyongsong-3 application satellite, to be put onto the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

From April 16-18, the website http://www.gonavy.jp/CVLocation.html reported that the Vinson was in the Indian Ocean.

A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Vinson carried out the exercises after passing through the Sunda Strait and wrapped them up this week.

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.