U.S.-South Korea sea exercise will go on as planned, U.S. military says
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — An aircraft carrier exercise involving the United States and South Korea will go ahead as planned, U.S. officials said Monday after South Korean media reported that the exercise had been shelved to placate China.
The two nations had planned the Yellow Sea exercise for later this month but canceled it ahead of a G-20 economic in Seoul on Nov. 11, said several news outlets who attributed the news to unnamed “high-level government sources” Monday. An unnamed source said the exercise would not be held this year “in a bid not to unnecessarily antagonize neighboring countries,” according to South Korean news agency Yonhap News.
U.S. military officials declined to comment directly on whether a Yellow Sea exercise was planned prior to the G20 meetings or postponed to ease tensions with China. However, they did say that the two nations will continue the ongoing series of military exercises agreed upon in July as a deterrent to North Korea.
Both Seoul and Washington blame the March 26 sinking of the South Korean vessel Cheonan on a North Korean torpedo attack, which Pyongyang has vehemently denied.
“We have already said that one exercise in the series is expected to involve the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and be conducted off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula,” said 7th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Davis. “That plan still stands.”
Chinese leaders spoke out strongly against earlier U.S.-South Korea exercises in September, which they said effectively put missiles within striking distance of Beijing. The Chinese consider the most of the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea to be their territory, despite international agreements that declare most of those areas to be open waters.
Chinese vessels have taken increasingly aggressive measures in recent years, including frequently shadowing or blocking passage to transiting U.S. ships, Navy officials have previously told Stars and Stripes.
However, relations between the U.S. and Chinese militaries have shown signs of warming recently.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Chinese counterpart Gen. Liang Guanglie in Vietnam earlier this month in their first talks since China broke off bilateral military relations in January, following a U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.