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US, South Korea Navies to Hold Joint Maritime Drills

  • Steve Herman
  • Seoul

The U.S. Navy and South Korea's defense ministry confirm plans for joint drills in the Yellow Sea from next Monday.

The four-day exercises, in two locations off South Korea's west coast are to take place in response to the sinking of a small South Korean warship on March 26th. An international investigation concluded a North Korean torpedo shattered the hull of the Cheonan naval gunboat.



The hastily-planned maritime drills are seen as part of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's call for "proactive deterrence" against North Korea.

Analyst Shin In Gun of the Korea Defense Network think tank in Seoul tells VOA News it is obvious that the militaries want to demonstrate a quick maritime response to sinking of the Cheonan.

He says, if they had waited to hold the exercise, the drills would have been viewed as less significant. Shin adds that the maneuvers will send a clear signal about the commitment of the United States to its ally in wake of the sinking of the South Korean ship.

The American aircraft carrier, the George Washington, is expected to participate in the exercise, although U.S. Navy officials are not making public confirmation of that.

Analyst Shin, a maritime specialist, says an U.S. carrier in the Yellow Sea would be unprecedented and potentially provocative.

He explains that previous drills have always taken place in the deeper Sea of Japan, off the east coast of Korea. But, in the event of war, any targeting of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, would ideally come from the west coast. He predicts this breaking of precedence will make North Korea "very uneasy."

Officials here in Seoul say, in addition to an aircraft carrier, the U.S. Navy is also dispatching an Aegis-class destroyer and a nuclear-powered submarine. South Korea is to deploy a destroyer, a submarine and fighter jets for the exercise.

Media reports say joint drills at a third location will be held, later this month, near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, in the area where the Cheonan sank.

The deaths of 46 South Korean sailors aboard the warship quickly escalated tension on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea has denied any responsibility for the act and says that any retaliation for the incident could lead to a resumption of all-out war.

The two Korea's technically remain at war. The Korean War ended in 1954 ended with the signing of a truce, not a peace treaty. 

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