Saturday, November 27, 2010

S Korea, US kick off major naval drills

A South Korean naval patrol ship (L) approaches its floating base before the sun rises off Yeonpyeong Island on November 28, 2010.
Large-scale naval maneuvers by the United States and South Korea have started in the Yellow Sea, less than a week after North Korea's deadly attack on Yeonpyeong Island.

"The drills started around 6 a.m. Sunday (2100 GMT on Saturday) with the USS George Washington joining our warships in the Yellow Sea," the Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying at South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

He added that the drills are taking place off the west coast town of Taean. 

The long-planned military drills are scheduled to run until Wednesday. The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, with over 6,000 sailors and 75 fighter jets aboard, will participate in the war games. 

The drills are being held less than a week after a North Korean artillery attack on the small island of Yeonpyeong. Four people -- two South Korean marines and two construction workers -- lost their lives and several more were injured. Many homes were also set ablaze by the attack. 

Yeonpyeong Island, located in the Yellow Sea, has long been a flash point between Seoul and Pyongyang. 

North Korea has warned the naval exercises could produce unpredictable consequences. 

On March 2, the 1,200-ton South Korean warship the Cheonan sank near the inter-Korea maritime border. The tragic incident led to the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors. 

Seoul accuses Pyongyang of sinking its warship. However, Pyongyang says aluminum alloy fragments recovered by South Korea prove that no North Korean torpedo was involved in the maritime accident. 

The South Korean military has also decided to strengthen its force on five islands close to North Korea as a measure to prevent the situation from escalating in the event of an armed clash, The Korea Timesreported on Thursday. 

The report added that Seoul plans to engage in active diplomacy with the United States, China, and countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula to seek punitive action against Pyongyang for Tuesday's artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island. 

Almost half a million South Koreans died as a result of the 1950-1953 Korean War. North Korea suffered 290,000 casualties in the conflict, according to data from official Chinese sources. 

The war ended in an armistice, with neither side able to claim outright victory. 

In the three years of fighting, 1,263 men of the Commonwealth forces were killed and 4,817 were wounded, while the US lost 33,000 men. Australian casualties numbered more than 1,500, of whom 339 were killed.


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