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S. Korea, U.S. to rattle saber against N. Korea in Yellow Sea next week

All Headlines 10:31 June 02, 2010

SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. will conduct its joint naval exercise with South Korea next week, a month earlier than expected, officials here said Wednesday, deploying a nuclear carrier in a show of force in the Yellow Sea where they accuse North Korea of sinking a warship.

The June 8-11 exercise will "be a strong signal to North Korea and also one that shows a firm combined defense posture," a South Korean defense official said on condition of anonymity.

The allies, technically at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, say Pyongyang is responsible for the March 26 sinking of the South Korean corvette, Cheonan.

Forty-six crew members died in the sinking, which South Korea blamed on a North Korean submarine, citing the results of weeks-long multinational probe that included U.S. officials.

The South Korean official said the U.S. will mobilize its nuclear-powered 97,000-ton carrier USS George Washington along with an Aegis destroyer and a nuclear submarine, while South Korea will deploy a 4,500-ton destroyer, a submarine and F-15K fighter jets.

The exercise will test their abilities to fire cannons, drop anti-submarine bombs and intercept enemy communications "in a way similar to actual warfare," the official said.

Another defense official, who also did not wish to be identified, said a separate exercise is being planned for late this month to focus on anti-submarine capabilities.

"The saber-rattling will take place on two different occasions," the official said.

South Korea, which is trying to take the sinking to the U.N. Security Council, already conducted an independent anti-submarine exercise near the Yellow Sea border with North Korea last week.

Pyongyang hit back with a threat to scrap a 2004 inter-Korean accord aimed at preventing accidental clashes there.

The navies of the divided Koreas have engaged in gunfights three times near their western sea border since 1999, the latest in November last year. The North denies the validity of the border as it was drawn by a U.S. commander at the end of the Korean War.

North Korea has threatened an "all-out war" for any punishment over the sinking and vowed to strike back if anyone intrudes upon its territory for retaliation. A joint U.S.-South Korean exercise almost always draws angry reactions from North Korea and prompts it to place its 1.2 million troops on alert.
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