The perceived communications mix-up has raised eyebrows among Korea experts, who wonder whether it erodes the Trump administration's credibility at a time when U.S. rhetoric about the North's advancing nuclear and missile capabilities are raising concerns about a potential conflict.
On April 9, Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, said the carrier strike group was headed north to the Western Pacific after departing Singapore the day before. "The No. 1 threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible, and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability", U.S. Pacific Command said. Vice President Mike Pence said on an Asian tour this week the era of "strategic patience" with North Korea was over.
But a Defense Department official on Tuesday said the ships remained off the northwest coast of Australia.
The official confirmed that instead of immediately making the journey, the USS Carl Vinson carried out drills with the Australian Navy as originally planned.
Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on April 11 said the Vinson was "on her way up" to the peninsula.
Based on the U.S. Navy's own photos, the USS Carl Vinson strike group was in the South China Sea from April 8 to the 14 - still far from the Korean Peninsula.
At the time of the strike group's deployment, many media outlets said the ships were steaming towards North Korea, when in fact they had temporarily headed in the opposite direction.More news: Illinois lawmakers ponder proposal to legalize marijuana
"The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula".
Over the next week, President Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, national security advisor H.R. McMaster, White House spokesman Sean Spicer and other officials all spoke of the carrier's positioning as a dramatic show of force against Pyongyang.
"We are sending an armada, very powerful", Trump boasted in an interview aired April 12, indicating an apparent show of force by Washington in the face of North Korea's increasing ballistic missile tests. Reports that the USA would position its strike group in the area didn't help.
"They're just out there, doing their jobs, and I know that they all know what they have to do and are very well trained, so I try not to get too nervous", she said.
Also Wednesday, Spicer announced that Trump will host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on May 20 to discuss a "conflict-ending settlement between the Palestinians and Israel".
Haley's comments come amid escalating tensions between the USA and North Korea.