U.S., South Korea start military drills as North protests

SEOUL Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:55am EDT

1 of 17. The U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (bottom) and the South Korean Navy's Landing Platform Helicopter ship Dokdo leave for a U.S.-South Korea joint naval and air exercise at a South Korean naval port in Busan, about 420 km (262 miles) southeast of Seoul, July 25, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jo Jung-Ho/Yonhap

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SEOUL (Reuters) - The U.S. and South Korean militaries kicked off large exercises on Sunday to underscore deterrence against North Korea after accusing the reclusive communist state of sinking a warship.

Pyongyang warned that the drill had pitched the peninsula onto the brink of war.

U.S. naval vessels, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, began the drills by setting off from South Korean ports where they had called last week in a show of force timed with a high-level meeting between the two allies.

North Korea drove tensions to new heights after a team of investigators, led by South Korea's military, accused it of firing a torpedo in March to sink the corvette Cheonan, killing 46 men.

The United States announced new sanctions on the North last week, freezing the assets of Pyongyang's leaders it said were earned through illcit activities and cutting off the flow of cash to them. The moves would also ban travel by some individuals.

China had objected to the drills.

Beijing criticized the introduction of large-scale military equipment into the Yellow Sea off the peninsula's west coast, prompting a move of the bulk of the exercises to areas off the east coast.

On Saturday, the North's powerful National Defense Commission vowed to launch a "sacred war" against the United States and South Korea at "any time necessary," in response to the drills, denounced as "reckless."

VESSELS, AIRCRAFT

The drills involve more than 200 aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor fighter, and three destroyers, including the USS John S. McCain, part of the 97,000-tonne USS George Washington's strike group.

Four Japanese military officers will be on board the carrier to observe the drills.

Pyongyang has routinely been shrill in voicing its anger in the past when the allies conducted exercises.

But U.S. officials say further provocations are possible in coming months, especially as the North tries to build political momentum for the succession to leader Kim Jong-il, expected to hand power to his youngest son.

North Korea has called for the resumption of six-party nuclear disarmament talks that it had boycotted since late 2008, a move analysts said was an attempt to put the Cheonan incident behind it and win lucrative aid through negotiations with the South, the United States, Japan, Russia and China.

On Saturday, the North's foreign ministry said it was ready for dialogue but vowed to respond by force if it had to.

"We are not the one who would be surprised by military threats or sanctions," a ministry spokesman said.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Comments (22)
RCMEDIA wrote:
NKorea can basically shut the hell up.
It’s pretty much understood that the USA has subs in the area of the drills to protect their assets during the process. The fake and weak sabre rattling by NKorea will always go on, but I’ll bet you a hotdog they won’t actually DO anything.

The capabilities of the F-22 (and the F-35) haven’t been proven yet. It might be best not to force the USA to demonstrate that capability.

Jul 25, 2010 4:21am EDT  --  Report as abuse
RCMEDIA wrote:
As for their (NKorea) talks, I’d leave them 100% alone. No discussion, no negotiation whatsoever. They want to be isolated, so be it. They produce nothing, they contribute nothing to the human experience, so they can operate their prisons all by themselves. If there was was a way to turn their O2 off, that would be a good option.
They’ve caused enough misery here on earth.

Jul 25, 2010 4:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
bwanazulu wrote:
Korea has a clear pattern of behaviour. Since it has primitive economy and some of its unfortunate people have to eat grass, they sabre rattle to get aid from developed countries. The US invariably offers this aid too stop hostilities. This time they went too far in sinking the Cheonan. Kim Jong-Il’s some was educated in Switzerland and may be a better bet than his old man… but that is dicey.

Jul 25, 2010 6:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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