Vice President Mike Pence said that he does not believe the Defense Department intentionally misled the public about the whereabouts of a strike group in the Pacific Ocean.
Contrary to the claims of many military and White House officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis and the U.S. Pacific Command, the USS Carl Vinson and its strike group were no closer to the Korean Peninsula on April 15 than they were a week earlier. On April 8, the Pacific Command announced the Carl Vinson Strike Group had been directed “to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific Ocean.”
“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea,” a spokesman for the command said.
“Were these misleading comments deliberate?” CNN’s Dana Bash asked Pence in an interview aired Wednesday.
“Oh, I think not,” Pence replied.”Look, we’ve got an extraordinary commitment of U.S. Forces in this region. And the Carl Vinson and that battle group are being deployed to the sea of Japan and will likely arrive here in the coming weeks.”
He added that the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. personnel in South Korea and Japan “gives me great confidence that the United States presence in the Asian Pacific is strong, and under President Trump’s leadership it will be stronger still.”
In a statement to TPM Tuesday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Pacific Command did not acknowledge any scheduling snafu.
“The USS Carl Vinson Strike Group is proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered,” the spokesperson said. “After departing Singapore on April 8 and cancelling a scheduled port visit to Perth, the Strike Group was able to complete a curtailed period of previously scheduled training with Australia in international waters off the northwest coast of Australia. The Carl Vinson Strike Group is heading north to the Western Pacific as a prudent measure.”
Mattis also refused to acknowledge any conflicting statements.
“We were doing exactly what we said, and that is, we were shifting her, instead of continuing in one direction as she pulled out of Singapore, she’s going to continue part of her cruise down in that region, but she was on her way to Korea,” he said Wednesday.
“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,” he continued. “So we’re doing exactly what we said we were going to do. She will be on her way. And I’ll determine when she gets there and where she actually operates. But the Vinson is going to be part of our ensuring that we stand by our allies in the Northwest Pacific.”