The Pentagon announcement eight days ago that a U.S. aircraft carrier combat group was steaming toward the Korean Peninsula had raised speculation about a preemptive U.S. strike on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
However, on Saturday, when the DPRK showcased its military muscle during a massive parade in Pyongyang, the USS Carl Vinson strike group, described by President Donald Trump as his "armada," was sailing in the opposite direction, participating in a joint exercise with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean.
The Pentagon had so far declined to comment on the movement of the vessel.
According to Defense News, several U.S. Navy officials who spoke off the record "expressed wonderment at the persistent reports that the Vinson was already nearing Korea."
"We've made no such statement," Defense News quoted one official as saying.
However, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did tell reporters that the Carl Vinson was "on her way up there."
"She (Carl Vinson) operates freely up and down the Pacific, and she's just on her way up there because that's where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time," said Mattis on April 11.
Mattis did mention that there was not a specific demand signal or specific reason why the Pentagon decided to change the route of the Carl Vinson and send it north. However, he did not mention that the U.S. aircraft carrier would first go further south before heading north to the Korean Peninsula.
Also, during a background briefing on April 12, a senior White House official did not correct the record when asked about media reports of the Carl Vinson's joint drill with Japanese ships on her way to the Korean Peninsula.
Currently, the Carl Vinson was reportedly sailing northward toward the Korean Peninsula, and media in South Korea cited Seoul officials as saying that the U.S. aircraft carrier was expected to arrive at South Korea's eastern waters on April 25.
Citing U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, The New York Times reported that those officials were perplexed why the Pentagon did not correct the media reports of the Carl Vinson's sailing timeline, given the increased tension on the Korean Peninsula, especially after the Trump administration's decision to go after the Syrian government early this month.
In a striking departure from his campaign pledge, Trump on April 6 ordered a U.S. missile strike on a Syrian military airfield, the first U.S. direct assault on the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the Syrian crisis began six years ago.
One week later, the U.S. military dropped a GBU-43, also known as "Mother Of All Bombs," on an Islamic State cave complex in Afghanistan. It was the largest non-nuclear bomb the U.S. military had ever used in combat.
The Trump administration's dual show of military assertiveness and the DPRK's continued provocative posture soon put the world on alert that a face-off could be imminent.
The DPRK attempted on Sunday to test-fire an unidentified missile on its east coast, which was believed to have failed, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The Pentagon confirmed later that the latest missile launch by the DPRK had failed.
The DPRK is banned from testing ballistic missile technology under UN Security Council resolutions.
Despite DPRK's latest show of defiance, the Trump administration so far had showed restraint by stressing that the United States was seeking to solve the Korean Peninsula issue peacefully.
"It's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully," said U.S. National Security Advisor Herbert Raymond McMaster on a TV show on Sunday.
On Monday, Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state, said at a briefing that the United States preferred to resolve this issue "through the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," adding that the United States was not after conflicts or "regime change."