SEOUL: South Korea and the United States yesterday launched a massive naval exercise in the tense Yellow Sea, ahead of the 62nd anniversary on Monday of the outbreak of the Korean War, a spokesman said.
The three-day drill will involve 10 South Korean warships plus the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, 8,000 personnel and hundreds of combat aircraft, the defense ministry said.
The joint naval drill, which comes amid high tensions on the peninsula, is conducted every year, alternatively in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and the Yellow Sea.
“The naval exercise started as scheduled today,” the defense ministry spokesman said.
On Friday, South Korean and US troops held their biggest single-day joint live-fire exercise to test responses to any North Korean attack.
The drill at Pocheon near the North Korean border involved 2,000 troops along with jet fighters, tanks, Apache attack helicopters, A-10 “tank-killer” aircraft, missiles and rocket launchers, the defense ministry said.
On Thursday and Friday, the US, South Korea and Japan carried out a separate drill off the southern South Korean island of Jeju, involving destroyers, supply ships and helicopters. North Korea denounced it as a “reckless provocation.” Tensions are high after the North’s failed rocket launch in April, seen by the US and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.
“Throughout the joint military exercises, South Korean and US forces will test their ability for joint operations and enhance combat-readiness,” Navy Brig. Gen. Park Seong-Bae said in a statement Friday.
“We will immediately retaliate against any attacks from North Korea and finish the enemy off on the spot.” Meanwhile, journalists at South Korea’s largest news agency Yonhap have ended a strike.
About 360 employees stopped working in March after their union accused Yonhap’s management of censoring reports critical of the country’s president.
Yonhap executive Jang Ik-sang said Saturday that the union and management agreed earlier this week to set up a joint panel overseeing fairness in reporting and other matters.
Jang says Yonhap’s production of stories halved during the strike. He says the company has yet to assess financial losses from it. Jang expects strikers — less than half of Yonhap’s workforce — to return to work early next week.
Broadcasters KBS and MBC have also seen strikes over alleged pro-government bias. The one at KBS ended earlier this month.