The Buzz

The Aircraft Carrier Carl Vinson to Korea Saga: What Happened?

A Navy carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson is on its way to the Western Pacific, reportedly to waters near the Korean Peninsula.

Feeling a little deja vu? Coming up on April 15, many observers assumed the Vinson was close, if not already there. Numerous reports indicated that the carrier strike group was sailing towards the peninsula in a show of force as North Korea was preparing for a possible sixth nuclear test. There was no nuclear weapons test, and it turned out the strike group was thousands of miles away from the Korean peninsula.

(This first appeared in The Daily Caller here.)

The sudden turn of events has left many wondering how the false narrative of a naval strike group sailing north to square off against Kim Jong-un came from.

April 9:

The 3rd Fleet Public Affairs office released a press statement on April 9 which read, “Adm. Harry Harris, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, has directed the Carl Vinson Strike Group to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific Ocean.”

The press statement said that the carrier strike group left Singapore one day prior.

That same day, Reuters wrote that a U.S. official said the Vinson was moving into the Western Pacific near the Korean peninsula because “we feel the increased presence is necessary.”

In the wake of that report, The Associated Press, citing the Pentagon, wrote, “A Navy carrier strike group is moving toward the Western Pacific Ocean to provide a physical presence near the Korean Peninsula.”

In both the Reuters and AP reports, the movement of the Vinson to waters near Korea was called a “show of force.” There is no indication of an arrival date in either post, but a New York Times article hinted that it would be arriving around the time North Korea celebrated the “Day of the Sun” on April 15.

The NYT, citing military and intelligence officials, wrote, “The timing of the of the ship movements was also intended to anticipate a milestone event coming up on the Korean Peninsula: the anniversary on Saturday of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founder and the grandfather of the country’s current leader, Kim Jong-un.”

U.S. Pacific Command signaled that the purpose of redirecting the ship was related to North Korea’s frequent provocations, which include multiple missile launches in recent weeks.

“U.S. Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” said Commander Dave Benham, “The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”

Previously scheduled port visits in Australia were reportedly canceled, and the ship was supposedly redirected.

April 10:

North Korea condemned the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson to waters near Korea, stating that it would counter America’s “reckless acts of aggression.”

April 11:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis downplayed the Vinson’s movements, stating that the ships deployment was not intended as a show of force.

“There’s not a specific demand signal or specific reason we’re sending her up there,” Mattis said at a press conference, adding, “She’s stationed in the Western Pacific for a reason. She operates freely up and down the Pacific, and she’s on her way up there because that’s where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time.”

Mattis also mentioned that the Vinson would not be taking part in joint exercises with Australia; however, Voice of America, citing military officials, later reported that the exercises would still be held, but on an accelerated basis — signaling that perhaps the carrier could still get up north in time for North Korea’s big day.

“It would be unlikely the Vinson [carrier strike group] wouldn’t arrive before the April 15 Day of the Sun, the annual holiday that celebrates the birth of North Korea founder Kim il-Sung,” USNI News reported.