The ship that was coming to take on North Korea made a stopover first.
When it was announced that a carrier strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson was being deployed to the Korean Peninsula, it was seen as a ratcheting up of tensions with North Korea, which was reported to be on the verge of a nuclear test.
But US officials later clarified it would first head for planned joint exercises with the Australian Navy before it began the journey north to the Korean Peninsula.
On Tuesday night, a senior administration official said a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House was to blame for the mixed reports.
Here’s what was said about the Vinson and where it was at the time:
A week and a half ago it was reported that Admiral Harry Harris of US Pacific Command had told the carrier strike group to start sailing north, towards Korea, after the ships left Singapore on the 8th.
The group consisted of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, weighing 97,000 tons with 60 aircraft, as well as two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser.
A US defense official told CNN at the time the decision had been made in direct response to North Korean provocations.
North Korea had just launched a Scud extended-range missile, only the latest in a series of launches by the rogue state in the first four months of 2017.
But although the USS Vinson carrier group headed into the South China Sea, it didn’t continue north towards the Korean Peninsula.
The US Navy does not officially confirm the whereabouts of its warships for security reasons but it appears now the group instead began to chart a course south, toward Indonesia.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun tells CNN that the US Navy’s deployment of the Vinson “Is a result of recognizing the grave situation.”
“We are keeping a fully prepared position against North Korea to deter any provocations, given that many political events are taking place (in April),” he said, referencing North Korea’s annual Day of the Sun celebrations.
Analysts said at the time that the carrier group’s purpose could be to shoot down “some number” of ballistic missiles if they were fired by North Korea.
Two days after the announcement, North Korea expressed its fury at the US carrier group’s new orders, calling it “reckless acts of aggression.”
“We will make the US fully accountable for the catastrophic consequences that may be brought about by its high-handed and outrageous acts,” the statement said.
But US officials clarified to CNN that the carrier group would be conducting some training with Australian forces and possibly Japanese forces prior to heading to the Korean peninsula.
On Wednesday, the US Navy posted photos to its website of the USS Carl Vinson in a location in the South China Sea, on what it describes as a “regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.”
The photos are dated between April 10th and 11th.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Moscow, that the Vinson’s deployment was routine and it had “no particular objective.” He also warned them “not to read too much” into reports of its Korea deployment.
That night, in an interview with Fox News Business, US President Donald Trump said he was sending an “armada” to North Korea.
“Very powerful, we have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you,” he told the program.
That weekend, North Korea celebrated the Day of the Sun, an annual event commemorating the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il Sung.
Many observers expected a nuclear test or missile launch in honor of the occasion, but in the end, nothing happened on that day.
Meanwhile, according to photos posted on the US Navy website, the Vinson enters the Sunda Strait off the coast of Indonesia – more than 4,000 kilometers from the Korean peninsula.
Senior Trump administration officials blamed a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House for earlier incorrect reports that the USS Vinson was already on its way to the Korean Peninsula.
Officials said there had been a lack of follow-up with commanders overseeing the aircraft carrier’s movements.
A US Pacific Command spokesperson says training with the Australian Navy has been completed, and “the Carl Vinson Strike Group is heading north to the Western Pacific as a prudent measure.”
The Vinson and its carrier group will arrive off the Korean Peninsula by the end of April, US defense officials told CNN.