It was supposed to be steaming toward North Korea more than a week ago, an "armada" signalling American resolve.
USA officials came under fire following revelations that the group of ships led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson were thousands of miles away from Korea despite earlier statements suggesting they would be in the region to deter the North when tensions soared last weekend.
The Carl Vinson, accompanied by a carrier air wing, two guided-missile destroyers and a cruiser, was supposed to have been ordered to sail north after leaving Singapore on April 8. Amid worrying signs that North Korea might test a missile before the Day of the Sun (birthday of founding leader Kim Il-sung) on April. 15, the USA had apparently dispatched the USS Carl Vinson to the Korean Peninsula as a show of force. "We said that it was heading there, and it was heading there, it is heading there". A spokesman for the Pacific Command linked the move directly to North Korea's "reckless, irresponsible and destabilising programme of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability".
Days later, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters that the Carl Vinson was "on her way up there".
Earlier in the day, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump's point was he's ready to defend allies.
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The US Pacific Command said in a statement that military exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean has been completed. Trump did not detail the assets involved in this "armada", aside from US Navy submarines - presumably nuclear-armed Ohio-class subs - which he claimed are "far more powerful than the aircraft carrier".
Seeking to clear up confusion on Wednesday, the Pentagon chief said he wanted "to be open about what we're doing".
"There's not a specific demand signal or specific reason why we're sending her up there", Mr Mattis told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon.
"We don't generally give out ship schedules in advance but I didn't want to play a game either and say we were not changing a schedule when in fact we had".
"If you threaten them and your threat is not credible, it's only going to undermine whatever your policy toward them is", said North Korea expert Joel Wit at the 38 North monitoring group, run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
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"Combined Forces Command had been on standby from early morning April 7, after we received intelligence reports around April 6 that the North would carry out a massive provocation", the military spokesman added.
It's unclear whether the Trump administration was waging psychological warfare on North Korea with a deliberate lie or whether this was the result of miscommunication within the United States government.
Rear Admiral Jim Kilby, Commander, Carrier Strike Group One made the announcement public on the carrier's Facebook page.
China, meanwhile, is feeling anything but reassured, warning recently that "a storm is about to break" over the divided Korean Peninsula.
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