(CNSNews.com) - The White House on Wednesday attempted to clarify President Donald Trump’s statement last week that he sent the USS Carl Vinson toward North Korea, saying that “the president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula,” and “it is happening.”
When asked to explain what led people in the Trump administration to believe the vessel was thousands of miles away from its actual location, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) “put out a release talking about the group ultimately ending up in the Korean Peninsula. That's what it will do.
“I think we were asked very clearly about the use of a carrier group in terms of deterrence and foreign presence and what that meant, and we were -- that's what we discussed. I'd refer you back to any other issues with that to the Department of Defense,” he said.
In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo last week regarding North Korea, Trump said, “We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier.”
When asked whether the president may have spoken too quickly on the location of the Vinson, Spicer said, “The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact. It happened -- it is happening, rather.”
“Obviously, when the President of the United States says there is military hardware going to a region in the middle of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula, the allies of the United States are encouraged. When that happens to not be the case, they can interpret that as a false encouragement. So how is this White House explaining to South Korea and Japan that, in fact, during the buildup and the actual DPRK missile launch, there was no USS Carl Vinson off the coast of the Korean Peninsula?” a reporter asked.
Spicer said “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, and it will arrive there,” Spicer said.
“It's headed there now. It wasn’t headed there last week,” the reporter said.
“Sure. No, no, no -- but that's not what we ever said. We said that it was heading there, and it was heading there -- it is heading there,” Spicer said.
He said the only the White House was asked about it “was what signal it sent, and I think we answered that very correctly at the time.” He referred all other questions on the incident to the Defense Department.
Defense Secretary James Mattis attempted to clear up confusion on the issue on Wednesday, saying, "The bottom line is, in our effort to always be open about what we are doing we said that we were going to change the Vinson's upcoming schedule.
"We don't generally give out ships’ schedules in advance, but I didn't want to play a game either and say we were not changing a schedule when in fact we had," he said.