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US, S Korea to hold naval exercises in Yellow Sea: Pentagon


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WASHINGTON (PTI): US and South Korea will hold joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea "in the near future", the Pentagon has said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates would travel to Seoul next week to meet their South Korean counterparts and approve a series of military exercises between the two nations, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.

"In the wake of North Korea's unprovoked attack on the Cheonan in March, (US) President (Barack) Obama directed this department to further strengthen its cooperation with the Republic of Korea.

Ever since, we have been engaged in high-level close consultations in an effort to devise additional ways to bolster alliance capabilities and improve regional stability," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell, told reporters at a news briefing.

"To that end, next week Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton, together with Minister of Defense Kim and Foreign Minister Yu, will discuss and likely approve a proposed series of US -ROK combined military exercises, including new naval and air exercises in both the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea," Morrell announced.

"We are not yet ready to announce the precise details of those exercises, but they will involve a wide range of assets and are expected to be initiated in the near future" he said.

Noting that all of these exercises are defensive in nature, Morrell, however said, this will send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea and demonstrate their steadfast commitment to the defense of South Korea.

"This trip, the talks that will take place in Seoul and the exercises to follow are just the latest manifestations of the fact that, as Presidents Obama and Lee noted in Ottawa earlier this month, the alliance between the US and the Republic of Korea has never been stronger," he said.

Responding to questions, the Pentagon spokesman said there is nothing for China to fear from these exercises, to which Beijing has expressed its concerns about.

"I'm, frankly, not sure that it does, other than the fact that, obviously, they are a regional power and someone who -- and a country that -- obviously, whose opinion we respect and consider.

But this is a matter of our ability to exercise in the open seas, in international waters. Those determinations are made by us, and us alone," he said.

Morrell said there have been very constructive conversations between the two militaries about how best to do so in a way that not only enhances their ability to work together so that they actually have real benefit to their respective militaries and their inter-operability, but also send a message to North Korea and to the region in terms of American commitment to stability.

"Those things are complicated. It's taken some time to work out. But I don't think it's been an unduly lengthy period of time. And we are going to have what will likely be a final consultation on this matter when the two Secretaries meet with their counterparts in Seoul", Morrell said.

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Navy  US  Korea  exercise  

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