Neil Connor Beijing
The deployment of an aircraft carrier group that was sent by Donald Trump to confront North Korea has been extended for a month, it was announced yesterday, as Pyongyang unveiled a propaganda video of missiles blowing up a city in the US.
The commander of the USS Carl Vinson strike group said the flotilla will spend another 30 days at sea, following confusion over whether the group had been heading towards North Korean waters.
The White House appeared to blame defence officials for erroneously suggesting that the aircraft carrier group was immediately diverted to the Korean peninsula after it left Singapore on April 8.
The US defence ministry acknowledged that the ships actually travelled in the opposite direction into the Indian Ocean to carry out manoeuvres with Australian forces, and only began its journey north recently.
“We said it was heading there. It was heading there and it is heading there. All other questions should be asked of the ministry of defence,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said.
The extended deployment was announced by Admiral James Kilby, the strike group’s commander, on its Facebook page. “Our mission is to reassure allies and our partners,” the naval officer said.
Growing concern in Asia over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions has led to frustration in some quarters over the communication mix-up regarding the strike group.
“We are sending an armada. Very powerful,” Mr Trump assured the region last week.
But Hong Joon-pyo, the South Korean presidential candidate, told the ‘Wall Street Journal’ that “South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says” if it is proved that he lied over the vessel’s movements.
China’s ‘Global Times’ newspaper accused the US president and military of creating “fake news”.
“Trump likes to brag,” said the newspaper, which has close links to Beijing’s Communist leaders. “Regardless of fact, he tends to make a show of his power to intimidate others first.”
Washington and Pyongyang have been engaged in a war of words in recent weeks, with tensions rising over concerns that North Korea could carry out a nuclear test, its sixth since 2006.
The rogue regime continued its sabre-rattling yesterday with the release of a mock-up video showing North Korean missiles apparently destroying a US city as Kim Jong-un, the leader, clapped and smiled. The clip, which ends with a burning Stars and Stripes flag superimposed over rows of white crosses in a cemetery, was a backdrop for a music show on Sunday during celebrations for the 105th birthday of the North’s founding father, Kim Il-sung.
Meanwhile, Mike Pence, the US vice-president, warned that the US military’s “shield stands guard and sword stands ready” as he visited a naval base in Japan. “North Korea is the most dangerous and urgent threat to the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific”, he told more than 2,500 US and Japanese military personnel on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan as it was moored in the base at Yokosuka.
Also yesterday it emerged that Ivanka Trump secured three trademarks for her goods in China on the same day she met Xi Jinping, the Chinese president.
The issue raises serious concerns about conflicts of interest for the daughter of Mr Trump, who acts as his adviser. Ms Trump’s company won provisional approval from Chinese authorities for three new trademarks, giving monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewellery, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy, the Associated Press said.
The trademarks were granted on April 6, the same day that she met Mr Xi at a summit at her father’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
Ms Trump is viewed with fascination among young, aspiring people in China, a country where there are many second-generation rich.
Ms Trump boosted her popularity in the country with a video of her children singing in Mandarin for President Xi at the Florida summit. The clip attracted more than two million views on the Chinese internet, along with gushing praise from domestic media.
Her business has been booming globally since she became one of the world’s most recognised faces following her father’s election victory in November.
“In addition to winning the approvals from China, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC applied for at least nine new trademarks in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Canada and the US after the election,” the report from the AP said.
The first daughter crafts a political career from her West Wing office.
Her husband Jared Kushner is also a prominent Trump adviser and both are said to be heavily involved in dealings with China. (© Daily Telegraph London)