Getting the story straight on the U.S. navy

27 10 2011

Following the AFP report based on U.S. sources and citing Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander John Perkins, the Thai government made a remarkably garbled response. This has led to the U.S. Department of Defense getting its story better tuned, and they now say:

When the flooding started,* U.S. Pacific Command ordered the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, which was conducting a port visit to Singapore, to get underway earlier than scheduled to pre-position in case assistance was required. The command sent a 10-Marine humanitarian assistance survey team from Okinawa, Japan, to Bangkok, Thailand, to assess the situation in the country.

After meeting with Thai officials, the team determined that U.S. military assistance was not needed.

“The Thai government and military have led a tremendous effort to protect and help its citizens during the recent flooding,” Pentagon officials said.

The Navy ships have been released to participate in a previously scheduled annual exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, Pentagon officials said. The destroyer USS Mustin now plans a previously unscheduled port visit to Laem Chabang, Thailand, to conduct community service events and military-to-military engagements.

*This is incorrect. The floods started long ago. It seems that for the U.S., the start of the flooding here means the threat to Bangkok.

To reinforce the point, U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney went on Thai television to deliver the Department of Defense line.

Kenney’s first statement is misleading. She is asked: “Can you clarify for us whether … the U.S. has withdrawn ships from relief operations in Thailand…”. She says: “No, that’s not true.” All reports, including the one cited above make it clear that the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, was pre-positioned and that it was then sent off to Japan. It is not clear how long the group was pre-positioned. Most of the remaining comment Kenney makes is clear.

PPT is still wondering which “Thai officials” the U.S. “team” met with and which of these officials were providing which mixed messages. At least the U.S. officials appear to have sorted out their message.

We can’t resist comparing Kenney’s highly public statements on this and her total silence on Joe Gordon’s lese majeste case. We wonder if the ambassador couldn’t make a clarification on the embassy’s weak position on a U.S. citizen rotting in a jail on political charges.


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