The Slatest

Spicer: When We Said That Aircraft Carrier Was Headed to Korea, We Meant Eventually

An F/A-18 fighter lands on the deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during a South Korea-US joint military cxercise in seas east of the Korean Peninsula on March 14, 2017. 

Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S.S. Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is now, as far as we know, actually heading toward Korea, and will arrive there on April 25. It had supposedly been ordered to the region on April 8, after leaving Singapore, in a move that was described by President Trump, White House spokesman Sean Spicer, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, as a message directed at the North Korean government. However, it turned out that the Vinson had been heading south toward Indonesia the whole time it was supposedly deterring Pyongyang’s nuclear test.

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The carrier group’s commander posted a message on Facebook yesterday, after news of its true location had broken, saying that its deployment had been “extended 30 days to provide a persistent presence in the Waters off the Korean Peninsula.” It’s not clear if this was a new change in mission, or the same change that had been announced back on April 8, and if it’s the latter, why the ships had been heading the wrong way all this time.

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But it was enough for Spicer to claim vindication at today’s press briefing. You see, when the White House said the ships were heading to North Korea, they meant eventually:

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Reporter: Sean, just want to follow up on that. You know, obviously with the president of the United States saying there is military hardware going to a region in the middle of a crisis, the allies of the United States are encouraged. When that happens to not be the case, they can interpret that as false encouragement. So how is the White House explaining to South Korea and Japan that in fact, during the build-up and the actual DPRK missile launch, there was no U.S.S. Carl Vinson

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Spicer: Respectfully, Jessica, I ask you to either touch base with PACOM or the Department  of Defense. 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.

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Reporter: It’s headed there now. It wasn’t headed there last week.

Spicer: Sure, but that’s not what we ever said. We said that it was heading there, and it was heading there. It is heading there.

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For the record, Spicer was asked on April 11 about the significance of the fact that the “USS Carl Vinson is sort of steaming out toward the Sea of Japan” and replied that “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.”

As for the substance of the reporter’s question today, we still don’t know what the Japanese and South Korean governments knew about the actual location of the Carl Vinson, but the South Korean public was definitely under the impression that Trump’s “armada” was on it’s way.

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