U.S., South Korea postpone anti-submarine exercise
SEOUL — A tropical storm approaching the Yellow Sea has prompted the U.S. and South Korea to postpone a joint anti-submarine warfare exercise, according to U.S. Forces Korea spokesman David Oten.
The exercise, designed to “send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea,” was to have started Sunday and run through Sept. 9, according to a USFK news release.
“There’s just no way to do [the exercise] in that area,” Oten said Saturday.
Tropical Storm Malou is expected to affect weather on the Korean Peninsula beginning late Sunday, according to South Korean media reports. The Korea Meteorological Administration’s website projected the storm’s path to take it into the Yellow Sea, west of the peninsula, which Koreans call the West Sea.
The exercise was to be the second in a series of U.S.-South Korean exercises meant to signal to North Korea the strength of the two nations’ military alliance. South Korea and the U.S. have accused North Korea of sinking a South Korean patrol ship, the Cheonan, on March 26. A South Korean-led investigation team determined that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.
The first exercise, “Invincible Spirit,” took place in the Sea of Japan in late July, and involved some 8,000 U.S. and South Korean troops, 20 ships and 200 aircraft.
U.S. units that were scheduled to participate in this week’s anti-submarine exercise included the guided missile destroyers USS Curtis D. Wilbur and USS Fitzgerald out of Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan; the USNS Victorious, an ocean surveillance ship; a fast-attack submarine; and P-3C Orion aircraft from Patrol Squadron NINE, based at Kaneohoe Marine Corps Base in Hawaii, according to a USFK news release.
South Korea’s navy participation was to include two destroyers, a fast frigate, a submarine, a patrol craft, and P-3C aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 6, according to the release.
Oten said the vessels are leaving for other assignments and are not expected to be caught in Malou. He said a new date for the exercise has yet to scheduled.
China, which has protested the anti-submarine exercise, held live-ammunition drills in the Yellow Sea that were scheduled to conclude Saturday.
Tropical Storm Malou comes on the heels of Typhoon Kompasu, which hit the Korean Peninsula Thursday with winds of more than 75 mph.