Press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday the White House does not bear responsibility for public statements indicating that a U.S. aircraft carrier was headed for the Korean Peninsula earlier this month when it was, in fact, sailing in the opposite direction.
All questions as to why the USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying battle group was photographed traveling south past Indonesia after U.S. officials said it would be deployed in the waters off the Korean Peninsula should be directed to the Pentagon and U.S. Pacific Command, Spicer said.
Spicer said he had never addressed the timing of the Carl Vinson’s movements, only the message sent by its deployment.
“What I was asked was what signal did it send that it was going there. And I answered that question correctly at the time, that it signaled foreign presence, strength and a reassurance to allies. That’s a true statement,” Spicer said. “We were asked a question about what signal it sent. We answered the question what signal it sent. I’m not the one who commented on timing.”
Reporting by Defense News, which was soon picked up by other media outlets, showed this week that while officials from the U.S. military and the White House had indicated that the Carl Vinson would head directly from a port stop in Singapore to the Korean Peninsula, it actually headed south to participate in drills with the Australian navy.
In its initial statement on the deployment, Pacific Command said the Carl Vinson would “sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific Ocean after departing Singapore” and made no mention of drills with the Australian navy. The Pacific Command statement specifically noted that planned port stops in Australia had been canceled.
“The statement that was put out was that the Carl Vinson group was headed to the Korean Peninsula. It is headed to the Korean Peninsula,” Spicer said.
The deployment of the aircraft carrier off the coast of the Korean Peninsula came in response to a missile test launched by North Korea, part of its most recent episode of saber-rattling and one that coincides with the birthday of its founder, Kim Il Sung.
Asked about the Carl Vinson’s deployment last week, Spicer said “when you see a carrier group steaming into an area like that, the forward presence of that is clearly, through almost every instance, a huge deterrence.” He made no mention at the time of any delay in the carrier’s deployment to the Korean Peninsula.