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21 April 2017, 04:51 | Erica Roy
US carrier strike group still far from N. Korea official
After the White House incorrectly boasted about an "armada" of USA aircraft carriers headed towards the Korean Peninsula as tensions between the USA and North Korea continued to surge last weekend, press secretary Sean Spicer doubled down during a press briefing on Wednesday. telling reporter "We have an armada going toward the peninsula". "That's a fact, it happened".
The Carl Vinson carrier strike group will remain deployed forward 30 days longer than planned due to a requirement that the ships stand guard in the Western Pacific, strike group commander Rear Adm. Jim Kilby said in a message to the families of those deployed.
On April 15, the Navy published a photo of the aircraft carrier as it was transiting the Sunda Strait-some 5600 kilometers (3,500 miles) southwest of the Korean Peninsula.
Mr Mattis said the strike group was now on its way to the Western Pacific as ordered.
Instead of heading straight towards the Korean peninsula the strike group headed the opposite direction.
The United States periodically sends aircraft carrier strike groups to waters near the Korean Peninsula to project power.
Beijing, long considered North Korea's last remaining ally, has stepped up its criticism of Pyongyang. It is headed to the Korean Peninsula.
The announcement came as many speculated that North Korea could be on the verge of a nuclear test, and numerous USA officials said deploying the ships was a muscular display of force.
While House officials have since said their account was based on "guidance from the Defense Department", according to The New York Times.
Vice President Mike Pence said on an Asian tour this week the era of "strategic patience" with North Korea was over.
"We will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves", an unidentified ministry spokesman said.
Reports of the Carl Vinson's deployment drew condemnation from North Korea, which slammed the move as "reckless". Mattis conceded that there was a change in schedule, but insisted that the Pentagon "don't generally give out ships' schedules".
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North Korea celebrated the Day of the Sun, an annual event commemorating the birth of the country's founder Kim Il Sung.
The whereabouts of the US aircraft carrier have fueled speculations whether the earlier announcements were a mistake or an intentional attempt to cause confusion.
The BBC's Korea correspondent, Stephen Evans, says it is not clear whether the mix-up was a deliberate deception, perhaps created to frighten North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, a change of plan or simple miscommunication. It also followed the country's administration criticising a USA attack on a Syrian air base, saying it was an "intolerable act of aggression against a sovereign state".
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