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South Korea, US hold joint naval drill

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SEOUL (AFP): The United States and South Korea on Thursday kicked off a joint naval exercise involving a US nuclear submarine that is certain to draw a sharp response from Pyongyang.

The USS Olympia (SSN-717), a Los Angeles-class submarine with some 120 sailors, arrived in the southern port city of Jinhae last Friday for the three-day drill.

The submarine joined South Korean naval vessels in an exercise focused on detecting enemy submarines and surface vessels in waters near the Korean Peninsula.

"The purpose of the exercise is to increase interoperability, strengthen cooperation, and enhance the readiness of our navies", said US Navy spokesman Arlo Abrahamson.

"These exercises are routine and regularly scheduled," he added.

North Korea sees all joint US-South Korean military drills as provocative rehearsals for invasion and has repeatedly demanded they be scrapped.

Large-scale, annual military exercises -- known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle -- begin in early March and look set to trigger a sharp rise in military tensions on the divided peninsula.

The two Koreas have remained technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War concluded with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.

North Korea last month offered to suspend any future nuclear test if the United States cancelled the drills this year -- a proposal rejected by both Washington and Seoul.

It is not unusual for a US nuclear-powered submarine to take part. The USS Colombia was involved in last year's Foal Eagle exercise.

The 7,000-ton submarine Olympia, equipped with Tomahawk land attack missiles but without any nuclear missiles, was forward deployed from Pearl Harbour at the invitation of the South Korean Navy, Yonhap news agency said.

The United States has close to 30,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, and would assume command control of combined forces in the event of a conflict with the North.

Tags:

US  S Korea  Navy  Exercise  Nuclear  Submarine  
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