|Apr. 10 file photo shows aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as it transits to homeport at Naval Air Station North Island, California. / AFP-Yonhap|
Carl Vinson wasn't headed to Korean peninsula
By Ko Dong-hwan
A U.S. Navy strike group ― led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson ― was thousands of miles from the Korean Peninsula at the weekend despite widespread belief it would be there to deter North Korea, according to news reports Tuesday.
The ships were not heading directly to the peninsula as originally reported. Instead, the group is taking part in scheduled exercises with Australia, Defense News said.
On Saturday, the strike group was about 3,500 miles from Korea, passing through the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java, according to the outlet. The Washington Post said the group was in the Indian Ocean later in the day, a direction opposite to Korea.
The group would participate in naval exercises with the Australian navy south of Singapore and is expected to arrive off the Korean Peninsula at the end of this month, according to CNN.
It was believed the group was heading to waters off Korea amid fears Pyongyang could conduct a nuclear test at the weekend to mark the anniversary of the birth of national founder Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.
U.S. officials had earlier said the ships were scheduled to participate in exercises with Australia, but were redirected to waters off Korea, an unusually massive show of force designed to warn Pyongyang against additional provocations.
It was unclear why the U.S. decided to let the ships participate in the exercises rather than head to Korea. U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham said on Apr. 9 that a U.S. Navy strike group, led by the nuclear-powered carrier, was being deployed to waters close to the peninsula to rein in North Korea's increasing nuclear threats.
Chinese media seized on the news that the ships were not where everyone assumed.
"Tricked badly!" the Global Times said Tuesday on its social media account. "None of the U.S. aircraft carriers that South Korea is desperately waiting for has come!"