A US aircraft carrier and other warships did not sail towards North Korea – but went in the opposite direction, it has emerged.
The US Navy said on 8 April that Carl Vinson strike group was headed towards the Korean peninsula, as a deterrence measure.
Last week President Trump said an “armada” was being sent.
But the group was actually father away over the weekend, moving through the Sunda Strait into the Indian Ocean.
The US now says it first had to complete training with Australia. The strike group was now “proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered”, the US military’s Pacific Command said on Tuesday.
It is not clear whether the failure to arrive was a deliberate deception, perhaps designed to frighten North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, a change of plan or simple miscommunication, the BBC’s Korea correspondent Stephen Evans says.
North Korea and the US have ratcheted up tensions in recent weeks and the movement of the strike group had raised the question of a pre-emptive strike by the US.
The North held a show of military might as part of a parade over the weekend and tested another missile on Sunday, which blew up almost immediately after launch, the Pentagon said.
Also on Tuesday, the US accused North Korea of trying to “provoke something”, with US Defence Secretary James Mattis calling the test a reckless move.
He said the US was “working closely” with China to engage North Korea.
Pyongyang said it may test missiles on a weekly basis, and warned of “all-out war” if the US takes military action.
“If the US is planning a military attack against us, we will react with a nuclear pre-emptive strike by our own style and method,” Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol told the BBC on Monday.