US admiral takes blame for carrier confusion

Commander, United States Pacific Command and United States Forces in Korea Admiral Harry Harris testifies before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, on 27 April 2017.
Commander, United States Pacific Command and United States Forces in Korea Admiral Harry Harris testifies before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, on 27 April 2017. PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON • The US admiral who ordered an aircraft carrier and other warships towards the Korean peninsula in a much- hyped deployment has taken responsibility for any "confusion" after the ships sailed in the opposite direction.

Amid soaring tensions ahead of North Korea's apparent preparations for a sixth nuclear test, the US Navy on April 8 said it was directing a naval strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson carrier to "sail north" from the waters off Singapore, as a "prudent measure" to deter Pyongyang.

But the ships actually went the other way, sailing south from Singapore and towards Australia to conduct drills with the Australian navy - though they subsequently did turn north.

"That's my fault on the confusion and I'll take the hit for it," Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the US military's Pacific Command, told lawmakers. "Where I failed was to communicate that adequately to the press and the media, so that is all on me."

Noting that the ships had eventually gone on to sail towards the Korean peninsula, he said they are still en route.

"Today (the strike group) sits in the Philippine Sea just east of Okinawa in striking range and power projection range of North Korea if called upon to do that, and then in a few days, I expect it will continue to move north," he told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

Adm Harris also cited the ships' capabilities in response to questions about whether the Carl Vinson is capable of deterring ballistic missile launches.

"We have ballistic missile ships in the Sea of Japan, in the East Sea, that are capable of defending against ballistic missile attacks," he told the congressional committee, adding that the carrier group was well-equipped to defend itself against attack with its own escort warships.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2017, with the headline 'US admiral takes blame for carrier confusion'. Print Edition | Subscribe