Turns out the United States didn't have a strike carrier group near the Korean Peninsula in recent days amid tensions with North Korea.
Officials have said the strike group was set to participate in a joint exercise with Australian forces before heading toward Korean waters, in apparent contradiction to White House rhetoric. Imagine everyone's surprise, then, when the US Navy released a picture of the USS Carl Vinson off the coast of Indonesia. He added that North Korea remains the "number one threat in the region" amid "its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability".
Trump said in an interview with Fox News on April 9 that he dispatched the supercarrier the day prior to sending a powerful message to North Korea. "Very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you", said Mr Trump.
An aircraft carrier the US Navy said was steaming towards the Korean Peninsula amid rising tensions has not yet departed, a US defence official has acknowledged.
The White House declined to comment on the misunderstanding, referring all questions to the Pentagon.
The Vinson is not expected to arrive near the peninsula until next week.
Donald Trump says Kim Jong Un's desire for peace a deciding factor
I think you're not going to see him telegraphing how he's going to respond to any military or other situation going forward. During the weekend, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson telephoned Chinese leaders to talk about tension with North Korea.
President Trump views North Korea as the biggest threat to peace in the world, and recently dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to Korea to issue a stern warning that the USA had lost its patience with the North.
A key to unraveling the confusion, the Times reports, was a photo taken Saturday and posted online by the Navy on Monday showing the Carl Vision sailing through Indonesian islands thousands of miles away from North Korea. Every president has done it. Trump, however, has brought it to new levels of irrelevant theater.
On April 8, the U.S. Pacific Command first announced that "Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, has directed the Carl Vinson Strike Group to sail north and report on station in the Western Pacific Ocean after departing Singapore April, 8".
The Trump administration cited the deployment of the naval strike force, which includes the carrier and four warships, as a clear warning to North Korea, which was said to be planning a nuclear test last weekend in conjunction with a national holiday. "And that could be a logical conclusion from what's just happened", said North Korea expert Joel Wit at the 38 North monitoring group, run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
But even Mattis initially misspoke about the strike group's itinerary, telling a news conference that the Vinson had pulled out of an exercise with Australia.