Wednesday, November 24, 2010

U.S. Sends Carrier To Yellow Sea For Exercises Near Korea

An aerial view shows destroyed houses on Yeonpyeong island, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, one day after North Korea's artillery attack on the island. Rescuers found the burned bodies Wednesday of two islanders killed in the attack _ the first civilian deaths from a skirmish that marked a dramatic escalation of tensions between the rival Koreas.

The Pentagon has dispatched the aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS George Washington to the Yellow Sea for naval exercises with South Korea following the exchange of artillery fire between the North and South.

The exercises are likely to anger China which in the past pressed Washington not to send its aircraft carriers to the sea.

The U.S. military command in Seoul announced that the carrier will take part in exercises in "waters west of the Korean peninsula" from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.

"This exercise is defensive in nature," the statement said. "While planned well before yesterday's unprovoked artillery attack, it demonstrates the strength of the [South Korea]-U.S. alliance and our commitment to regional stability through deterrence."

The maneuvers also will seek to improve the interoperability of U.S. and South Korean naval forces, the statement said.

The dispatch of the carrier to the Yellow Sea was postponed during earlier anti-submarine warfare exercises amid complaints from Chinese military officials that a carrier in the sea threatened China because U.S. warplanes from the ship could reach targets in China.

Chinese Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu told state-run media in July that "if the United States truly wants to take into account the overall interests of the Sino-U.S. relationship, then it must on no account send its USS Washington to the Yellow Sea." He called the area "sensitive."

The Pentagon rejected the Chinese criticism and said U.S. Navy ships, including carriers, will transit the Yellow Sea because it is in international waters.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters last month that "there has been an assertion that we, the U.S., shouldn't operate in the Yellow Sea. That is international waters. We're going to operate in the Yellow Sea. We and others."

The ships scheduled to take part in the exercise in addition to the George Washington include the missile-armed warships USS Cowpens, USS Shiloh, USS Stethem and USS Fitzgerald.(source)

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