Remember when Trump said an aircraft carrier was headed towards North Korea? Yeah, it wasn’t.
Just over a week ago, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal to North Korea and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior. “We’re sending an armada,” Mr. Trump said to Fox News last Tuesday afternoon.
The problem was that the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the three other warships in its strike force were that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.
White House officials said Tuesday that they had been relying on guidance from the Defense Department. Officials there described a glitch-ridden sequence of events, from an ill-timed announcement of the deployment by the military’s Pacific Command to a partially erroneous explanation by the defense secretary, Jim Mattis — all of which perpetuated the false narrative that a flotilla was racing toward the waters off North Korea.
There’s finger-pointing going on regarding why this happened, but the inevitable Trumper defense that Trump is just keeping people off guard does not wash.
In South Korea, Hong Joon-pyo, the presidential candidate from former leader Park Geun-hye’s ruling party, said it was inappropriate to judge before receiving final confirmation of the Carl Vinson’s whereabouts. But, in an interview, he said: “What Mr. Trump said was very important for the national security of South Korea. If that was a lie, then during Trump’s term, South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says.”
He also said that, in light of Mr. Trump’s recent military strikes on Syria and Afghanistan, “it seems to me that Trump is a person who takes responsibility and action based on what he says.”
. . . .
In Japan, Prof. Narushige Michishita of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies said regardless of whether the U.S. intended to deceive or the narrative was a miscommunication, it looked bad for the White House.
“At a time of emergency, disinformation could be used as a tactic, but if the U.S. president spreads disinformation in peacetime like now, it would hurt the credibility of the U.S.,” he said.
Either Trump was behaving very erratically or he didn’t know where his aircraft carrier was and where it was headed. Neither possibility inspires confidence.
[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]