(CNSNews.com) - "Why are three U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike groups heading toward the direction of the Korean Peninsula right now?" a reporter asked the Pentagon on Thursday.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White called it "a unique opportunity" for them to "be together," and also to "show that the U.S. (is) the only power in the world that can demonstrate that kind of presence."
"It's not directed towards any particular threat, but it's -- it is a demonstration that we can do something that no one else in the world can," White added.
Lt.-Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the director of the Joint Staff, said he would "amplify" on White's comments.
"It's been long scheduled," he said. "This didn't arise overnight. But as -- as Dana noted, it does demonstrate a capability that no other nation in the world can do. It assures our allies. The Seventh Fleet has had a -- a presence in these waters for seven decades, so this is nothing new," McKenzie said.
Later, a reporter noted that McKenzie had said the carrier deployments were "nothing new."
"It's the first time in a decade they've had three battle groups in the area," the reporter said. "So that's kind of new. "And you say it's been planned for a long time. Are we talking over the last month, or are we talking two or three months, as -- hostilities between the U.S. and North Korea have ratcheted up?"
"You're right," McKenzie sid. "The last time we operated three carrier groups together is 2007. Aircraft carrier schedules, though, aren't created very quickly. This has been long building. I couldn't tell you the exact time that this -- this confluence came together, but it's certainly not in the last month. It's been planned for quite a while. And we might be able to come back and give you a sense of that a little bit later. I just don't know.
"But I would say that I wouldn't read anything more to it than it's just an opportunity to exercise three carrier strike groups together," McKenzie said. " We always seek to do that when we have an opportunity to do it. It doesn't come along very often. But it does demonstrate a unique and powerful capability that has a -- has a very significant assurance effect on our allies in the Western Pacific."
He wouldn't say if the carrier group cluster is intended to send a message to North Korea. "Well, I'm sure it demonstrates a capability the United States has. I wouldn't go beyond that," McKenzie said.
"And what capability would that be?" the reporter followed up.
"It would be the capability associated with three aircraft carriers," McKenzie replied.
Defense Secretary James Mattis visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea with his South Korean counterpart on Friday, saying, "Our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
President Trump plans to visit South Korea next month.