S. Korea, U.S. delay joint naval drill for more preparations

Other News Materials 4 June 2010 11:01 (UTC +04:00)

South Korea and the United States have postponed their joint naval drill, which was due to start next week, by two to three weeks because the U.S. side needs more preparations, Seoul's senior official said Friday, Yonhap reported.

The two nations had been scheduled to conduct the large-scale, four-day naval drill in the South's waters off the Yellow Sea starting Monday as part of their joint response to March's deadly sinking of a South Korean warship by North Korea.

"The joint naval drill, set to be held early next week, was delayed to after mid-June, given conditions of preparations by the U.S. side," Deputy Defense Minister Chang Kwang-il told reporters on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific security conference in Singapore.

Chang said South Korea and the U.S. plan to hold another naval maneuver in the South's waters in late June or early July.

The U.S. is expected to send a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, an Aegis destroyer and a nuclear submarine to the first drill, while South Korea will deploy a 4,500-ton destroyer, a submarine and F-15K fighter jets, Seoul officials have said.

The exercise will test their abilities to fire cannons, drop anti-submarine bombs and intercept enemy communications, according to the officials.

The details will be on top of the agenda when South Korean defense chiefs and the U.S. hold talks later in the day in Singapore to discuss North Korea, Chang said.

South Korea's Defense Minister Kim Tae-young meets U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for the first time bilaterally since the March 26 sinking of a South Korean warship. An international investigation concluded on May 20 that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo to sink the Cheonan in the Yellow Sea, one of the worst military disasters since the 1950-53 Korean War.

"The two sides are expected to share views that the North's attack on the Cheonan was clearly an act of invasion and a violation of the Korean War armistice," said a South Korean official at the security forum, referring to the truce that ended the Korean War.

Kim and Gates are expected to reach agreement that their governments need to review their joint defense posture to deter further aggressions by the North in the aftermath of the sinking, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

South Korea has taken a series of retaliatory steps to punish North Korea for the sinking, including staging its own military drills and preparing to take the case to the U.N. Security Council.

North Korea, which has furiously denied any involvement in the sinking, has warned of a war in response to any attempts to punish it.