White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted on Wednesday that a U.S. aircraft carrier was heading toward North Korea last week, even though a U.S. Navy photo from the time showed it was actually traveling in the opposite direction.
Pacific Command put out a statement on April 8, saying that the Carl Vinson strike group would move toward the western Pacific from Singapore. The announcement came as many speculated that North Korea could be on the verge of a nuclear test, and numerous U.S. officials said deploying the ships was a muscular display of force.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster called the decision to send the ships toward North Korea “prudent.”
“We are sending an armada,” President Donald Trump said on April 12. But on Saturday, the Navy posted photos showing the ships 3,500 miles from the peninsula. They are now headed directly toward the peninsula.
Spicer denied that the White House’s statements about the ship movements were misleading, because the ships were eventually going to the peninsula.
“The statement that was put out was that the Carl Vinson group was headed towards the Korean Peninsula. It is headed to the Korean Peninsula. That’s not what we ever said. It was heading there, it is heading there,” Spicer said.
Spicer was asked during an April 11 briefing about ships “steaming out toward the Sea of Japan” and what signal that would send to allies in the region.
“A carrier group is several things,” he said at the time. “The forward deployment is deterrence, presence. It’s prudent. But it does a lot of things. It ensures our ― we have the strategic capabilities, and it gives the president options in the region. But I think 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. So I think it serves multiple capabilities.”
Spicer also denied that Trump misspoke when he talked about the ships.
“The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That’s a fact, it happened,” Spicer said.
But then Spicer corrected himself, noting that it had not in fact happened. “It is happening, rather,” he said.
Although Spicer refused to admit the White House’s statements had been misleading, he directed questions about the locations of the ships to the Pentagon. CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that administration officials blamed a miscommunication for the mix-up over the ship location.
North Korea held a military parade on Saturday in which it displayed several different kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. It also attempted to launch an unknown type of missile on Sunday, but it quickly blew up.