After an embarrassing mix-up, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson is now close enough to Korea to launch airstrikes if needed. Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, took responsibility for the confusion last week when the White House gave the impression that the carrier was racing towards Korea, when it was actually more than three thousand miles away, and steaming in the opposite direction. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
A detailed story in Navy Times reports that Admiral Harris came up with the plan to divert the Vinson towards Korea by cutting short exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, and skipping a port call in Perth, Australia. The Navy issued a press release announcing cancellation of the port call in order to give the families of hundreds of sailors time to cancel airline tickets and hotel rooms in Perth. The press release was also designed to send a message to North Korea and that, according to Navy Times, set off a series of “gaffes and missteps throughout the entire National Security Structure…that would raise the specter of a nuclear showdown…send the U.S. and Chinese governments into crisis mode and expose alarming communications deficiencies within the American military.”
The Navy Times story also blames major newspapers and networks for fueling a war frenzy without checking facts.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, Admiral Harris took full responsibility, and said that the Vinson and her escorts were just east of Okinawa, within two hours flying time of North Korea.
He also disputed a story published by Bloomberg yesterday, which reported that the carrier strike group was not capable of shooting down North Korea’s missiles. He said North Korea does not have ballistic missiles able to target ships at sea, and that the weapons it does have would be defeated easily. “If it flies, it will die,” he said, “if it’s flying against the Carl Vinson Strike Group.”