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Venue of Naval Drill With US Switched to East Sea

Posted July. 16, 2010 13:55,   


In an apparent concession to China, South Korea and the U.S. agreed Thursday to move their planned anti-North Korea naval exercise to the East Sea from the Yellow Sea.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told a news briefing Wednesday that a combined military exercise of massive forces will take place soon, adding that the drill will be larger than the Ulchi Freedom Guardian or other annual exercises between Seoul and Washington.

A senior official at the South Korean Defense Ministry also said South Korea and the U.S. will conduct a joint drill in the East Sea soon after a bilateral foreign and defense ministers’ meeting July 21. The official also said anti-submarine exercises will be conducted in the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea afterwards.

On the planned deployment of the USS George Washington to the East Sea, Morrell said the aircraft carrier’s participation in the joint drill is a “regular” event. He also said he is sure the vessel will carry out activities in the Yellow Sea.

As if commenting on China’s wariness over the exercise being held in the Yellow Sea, Morrell said the upcoming drill is a matter of U.S. capability in conducting exercises in international waters, stressing Washington based its decision on this.

The South Korean military said the decision to deploy the George Washington to the East Sea was based on a bilateral agreement. An official at Seoul’s presidential office said South Korea first asked the U.S. to deploy the carrier to the East Sea because the exercise is meant to flex the allies’ muscles against North Korea, not China.

Certain military officials expressed regret, however, over the cancellation of saber-rattling in the Yellow Sea, where the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo March 26, because of China.

A military official in Seoul said Washington offered to conduct the exercise in the East Sea this time, expressing regret over the change in venue because of Chinese pressure.

mhpark@donga.com mhpark@donga.com