Four warships Donald Trump claimed were being sent to North Korea last week, were in fact steaming in the opposite direction to take part in military exercises with the Australian Navy over 3,500 miles away.
The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and three other ships in its fleet, which Mr Trump described as an “armada”, were said to have been deployed to the Sea of Japan as a “show of force” in response to North Korea’s missile tests, military officials said on April 8.
“We are sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines. Very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network.
White House press Secretary Sean Spicer explained that having the flotilla in the Sea of Japan within striking distance of Pyongyang gave President Trump “options in the region.”
But it later emerged that at the time the statement was made, the ships were not steaming towards North Korea, but to a scheduled exercise in the Indian Ocean.
At the time, the comments from the US government heightened tensions with Pyongyang, with North Korea’s state news agency describing the supposed deployment as “nothing but a reckless action of aggression to aggravate the tensions in the region”.
On Tuesday, White House officials said the statements had been based on information from the Defence Department, The New York Times reports.
But officials in the Defence Department then described a confused sequence of events leading up to the announcement of the direction of the “armada”.