USS Carl Vinson begins drills with Japanese destroyers

File photo

TOKYO — American aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson started joint drills with two Japanese destroyers in the western Pacific Ocean on Sunday, authorities said.

The Ashigara and Samidare destroyers will take part in “tactical training” drills with the US carrier near the Philippines, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force said.

In the face of recent saber-rattling from North Korea, US President Donald Trump had said the USS Carl Vinson carrier group was being deployed to waters off the Korean peninsula

The location of the USS Carl Vinson has dominated headlines after Trump’s remark on April 12.

Trump said he was sending “an armada” to Korean waters potentially to deal with threats from North Korea. The statement came after Pyongyang said it had successfully launched a new ballistic missile.

“We are sending an armada. Very powerful,” Trump told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. “We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you.”

But it turned out the carrier group was not actually steaming toward the peninsula, but rather heading to joint exercises with the Australian navy.

The US Pacific Command said Tuesday that training with the Australian navy had been completed, and that “the Carl Vinson Strike Group is heading north to the Western Pacific as a prudent measure.”

US defense officials told CNN the Vinson and its carrier group would arrive off the Korean Peninsula by the end of April.

Two days later, the US Navy announced Thursday that it was extending the Vinson’s deployment by 30 days “to provide a persistent presence in the waters off the Korean Peninsula.”