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US Carrier Still Thousands of Miles from Korean Waters

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Sunda Strait on April 14, 2017 in Indonesia. (U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Sunda Strait on April 14, 2017 in Indonesia. (U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

North Korea apparently wasted a lot of vitriol last week condemning the show of force off the peninsula by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, which was thousands of miles away in the Indian Ocean.

The Trump administration and Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, made a point last week of stating that a port visit for the Vinson and its support ships in Australia had been cancelled, and the battle group was heading to the Sea of Japan to guard against North Korea's missile and nuclear tests.

Screaming headlines in Far East news reports -- and in the U.S. -- on the whereabouts of the Vinson proved to be premature. DefenseNews Tuesday spotted a Navy photo of the Vinson taken on Saturday showing the nuclear-powered carrier off Indonesia about 3,500 miles from the Sea of Japan.

Four days earlier, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was describing the deterrent mission of the Vinson-led U.S. armada in the Sea of Japan. President Donald Trump told Fox News that "We're sending an armada" to the Korean region.

The photo, verified by the Navy, showed the Vinson passing through the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra on a heading south -- not north to Korean waters.

In statements last week, North Korea said of the Vinson that "This goes to prove that the U.S. reckless moves for invading the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) [have reached a serious phase of its scenario."

"If the U.S. dares opt for a military action, crying out for 'preemptive attack' and 'removal of the headquarters,' the DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S," the statement said.

However, the Vinson and its battle group were now headed to the Sea of Japan -- really, Pentagon officials said. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters traveling on his plane to Saudi Arabia that the Vinson should arrive sometime next week.

At a Pentagon news conference last Tuesday, Mattis said that the Vinson already was "on her way up there because that's where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time."

Mattis told reporters traveling with him to Saudi Arabia that the threat of another provocation from North Korea remained. He called North Korea's failed missile launch Sunday, a day after a massive military parade in Pyongyang, a clear signal of the intent of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

"The leader of North Korea again recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile" in a test of the resolve of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and the international community, Mattis said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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