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U.S. Carrier Sent to S. Korea for Drill


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NYTimes:

SEOUL, South Korea — The Defense Department announced Monday that an aircraft carrier, the George Washington, would arrive in the South Korean port of Pusan on Wednesday as the United States and South Korea prepared for joint military exercises meant as a show of strength against North Korea.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Seoul on Monday to make final plans on the exercises with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and their South Korean counterparts.

United States defense officials declined to say specifically what role the George Washington would play in the exercises, but its presence, capabilities and sheer size — it is in the Nimitz class, the largest of American aircraft carriers — is aimed at intimidating North Korea for what an international investigation concluded was the country’s sinking of a South Korean warship.

The attack occurred in March when, investigators say, a torpedo fired from a North Korean midget submarine hit the ship, the Cheonan, and killed 46 sailors.

The George Washington will be in South Korea “as an additional manifestation of our steadfast commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea,” Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters traveling with Mr. Gates.

Three destroyers from the George Washington’s strike group — the McCampbell, the John S. McCain and the Lassen — are also to visit South Korean ports.

Mr. Gates and Mrs. Clinton are to announce more detailed plans on the military exercises, which are to take place in the Yellow Sea, with their Korean counterparts when they meet in Seoul on Wednesday. So far Defense officials have said that the exercises, which would last at least over several days, would focus on practicing antisubmarine warfare techniques and the interdiction of cargo vessels carrying prohibited nuclear materials and banned weapons.

The sinking of the Cheonan caught officials in both South Korea and the United States off guard, revealing that years of military spending and training had still left South Korea vulnerable to surprise attacks.

The United States is going ahead with the military exercises despite concerns from China, which considers them too close to its coastal area on the Yellow Sea and therefore a form of intimidation.
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