Pentagon dials up pressure on North Korea for Cheonan sinking
The Pentagon announced Monday that it will conduct two joint naval exercises with South Korea in response to confirmation that North Korea was responsible for the warship Cheonan sinking.
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“This is a highly precarious situation that the North Koreans have caused in the region,” Secretary Clinton said.Skip to next paragraph
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The US holds several large annual military exercises with South Korean forces, but they generally focus on land forces and the protection of South Korea against invasion from the North.
The largest of these exercises, known as Key Resolve/Foal Eagle, “is a large-scale combined field training exercise that includes the strategic deployment of American forces from bases in the US, as well as the participation of thousands of [South Korea] troops,” Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of US forces in Korea, told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing on March 24.
More than just saber rattling?
US-South Korean naval exercises tend to be smaller scale. Last week, the US cancelled a previously scheduled annual event called “Courageous Channel,” a naval exercise intended to practice the evacuation of noncombatants from the Korean peninsula. At the time, US military officials said that they did not want North Korea to think that the exercise, set to run from May 20-24, was a response to the Cheonan incident.
Now the US apparently wants to make the opposite impression, by announcing naval exercises billed as a direct response to the Cheonan’s sinking. According to a White House statement, President Obama has ordered his military commanders to coordinate closely with South Korea “to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression” by North Korea.
Pentagon officials declined to specify when the exercises would take place, or which US forces would participate. The US is better than South Korea at antisubmarine warfare, notes Victor Cha of CSIS, due to decades of practice following Soviet submarines in open waters during the Cold War. In that sense South Korea indeed may learn valuable tactics from the scheduled maneuvers.
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