Wednesday, August 18, 2010

U.S., S. Korea To Conduct Anti-Submarine Exercise

The United States and South Korea will carry out a joint anti-submarine exercise in the Yellow Sea in September to send a "clear message" to Pyongyang, the Pentagon said Aug. 18.

The exercise is part of a series being carried out by the two allies since March, when the South Korean warship Cheonan was destroyed in the Yellow Sea, claiming 46 lives.

"We are going to continue a series of exercises that are of a defensive nature and are designed to send a clear message to North Korea," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

"The next exercise in that series will focus on anti-submarine warfare. The exercise will be conducted in the waters off the western coast of the Korean peninsula and begin early next month."

The allies in July moved their first joint exercise after the sinking of Cheonan from the Yellow Sea to the eastern side of the Korean peninsula after Beijing raised concerns about "regional tensions."

Whitman said the anti-submarine exercise would be held in international waters and was designed to improve the readiness and efficiency of U.S. and South Korean forces to defend themselves against sub-surface attacks.

"This exercise sends a clear message to North Korea that the U.S. is committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea. Our commitment is unequivocal," Whitman said. "These exercises are intended to deter North Korea from future destabilizing attacks such as that which occurred with Cheonan."

Citing a multinational inquiry, Seoul has blamed the loss of the warship on a torpedo attack by a North Korean submarine, an allegation which Pyongyang has vehemently denied.

Any military drills involving the United States in the Yellow Sea are a sensitive issue because of the region's proximity to China, and the disputed maritime boundary between South and North Korea.

China, North Korea's closest ally and its most important source of economic and other aid, has refused to criticize Pyongyang over Cheonan and has repeatedly warned Washington and Seoul against the exercises.

South Korea and the United States are currently engaged in their latest exercise, a 10-day round of war games involving tens of thousands of troops that started Aug. 16.

Last week, South Korea held an anti-submarine drill in the Yellow Sea, but without any U.S. involvement.

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