Trump's Korean armada stays near Australia
North Korea expert Joel Wit, at the 38 North monitoring group, said it raised questions about the Trump administration's credibility.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing defense officials, that communication misfires fanned the incorrect statements that the warships were heading toward North Korea. The Vinson was recently in Singapore for a port call, and has wrapped up an abbreviated exercise with the Australian Navy near Indonesia. The narrative last week was that the USA and its allies in the Western Pacific were gearing up for a showdown with strongman Kim Jong Un ahead of the anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.
In an interview that aired April 12 on Fox Business Network, President Donald Trump was asked about the redirection of the ships.
"But I think when you see a carrier group steaming into an area like that, the forward presence of that is clearly, through nearly every instance, a huge deterrence", he added.
Separately, Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, a commander of Carrier Strike Group 1, announced on April 19 that the deployment of the carrier group had been extended by a month "to provide a persistent presence in the waters off the Korean Peninsula".
Further confusion was added when Secretary of Defence General James "Mad Dog" Mattis - wrongly - said the exercises had been cancelled.
But, instead of heading straight towards the Korean peninsula, the United States strike group instead conducted planned exercises with HMAS Ballarat in the Indian Ocean.
Vice President Mike Pence has visited several Asia-Pacific countries in recent days, hoping to solidify USA relationships in the region, and his trip included some time at the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea.
On the campaign trail, Trump said that, if elected, he would put pressure on China to rein in North Korea and its increasingly aggressive weapons program.
The move was designed as a show of force against North Korea's nuclear threat and prompted fears of an imminent war.
The strike group was now "proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered".
Trump's comments came on the heels of news reports that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group was headed toward North Korea - news seemingly confirmed by a strike group spokesman.