US aircraft carrier strike group still far from North Korea: official

By Rob 0

Washington: A US aircraft carrier the Navy had said was heading toward the Korean Peninsula amid rising tensions with North Korea has not yet started sailing to the region, a US defence official acknowledged Tuesday.

The Navy on 8 April said it was directing a naval strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson supercarrier to “sail north” as a “prudent measure” to deter North Korea.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on 11 April said the Vinson was “on her way up” to the Korean peninsula and President Donald Trump the next day said: “We are sending an armada. Very powerful.”

But a defence official on Tuesday told AFP that the ships remained off the northwest coast of Australia. A Navy photograph showed the Vinson off Java over the weekend. “They are going to start heading north towards the Sea of Japan within next 24 hours,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The official added that the strike group wouldn’t be in the region before next week at the earliest—it is thousands of nautical miles from the Java Sea to the Sea of Japan.

At the time of the strike group’s deployment, many media outlets said that the ships were steaming toward North Korea, when in fact they had temporarily headed in the opposite direction.

The US ratcheted up its rhetoric ahead of North Korea’s military parade and failed missile launch over the weekend, and Vice President Mike Pence on Monday declared that the era of US “strategic patience” in dealing with Pyongyang was over.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responded with his own fiery warnings and threatened to conduct weekly missile tests.

The strike group has been conducting drills with the Australian navy in recent days, the official said.

It has scrapped a planned port visit in Australia as a result of sailing north.

First Published: Wed, Apr 19 2017. 12 24 AM IST