The US supercarrier Carl Vinson will arrive in the Sea of Japan in days, Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday, after days of mixed messages from Washington over the warship's whereabouts.
The strike group was supposedly steaming towards North Korea last week amid soaring tensions over the rogue state's apparent ramping up for a sixth nuclear test, with Pyongyang threatening to hit back at any provocation.
But the US Navy, which had earlier said the aircraft carrier would sail north from waters off Singapore as a "prudent measure" to deter the regime, admitted Tuesday the ships were in fact sent away from Singapore and towards Australia to conduct drills with the Australian navy.
The aircraft carrier will arrive "in a matter of days", Pence, who is in Sydney, said, after the location of the naval strike group became contentious.
"We are sending an armada. Very powerful," Trump had tweeted, while Pentagon chief Jim Mattis had said the Vinson was "on her way up".
"The authorities of the Trump administration are spouting a load of rubbish," a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement released early Saturday by Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency.
America is "seeking to bring nuclear aircraft carrier strike groups one after another to the waters off the Korean Peninsula. Such intimidation and blackmail can never frighten the DPRK", he said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic Republic of Korea.
Pence also renewed US calls for Beijing to use its "unique" position to bring Pyongyang to heel.
"The steps we're seeing China take, in many ways unprecedented steps, bringing economic pressure to bear on North Korea are very welcome," Pence said.
"We do believe China can do more."
US officials have repeatedly warned that "all options are on the table" including military strikes to curb the North's nuclear ambitions.