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With US-South Korea war games, a signal to North Korea

US naval exercises Sunday off the Korean peninsula take on added significance, after North Korean attack on a South Korean island. Pyongyang rails against the US-South Korea war games.

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / November 26, 2010

The Nimitz-class USS George Washington at the Busan port in Busan, on July 25. On the heels of North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong island the Obama administration has sent the aircraft carrier to take part in war games set for Sunday.

Lee Jin-man/AP/File

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Washington

The joint military exercises the US will conduct with South Korea's navy on Sunday, off the Korean peninsula in the Yellow Sea, are taking on added significance as a message-bearer to North Korea, following Pyongyang's shelling of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong on Tuesday.

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The Pentagon is quick to point out that the naval exercises are “defensive in nature” and that similar events have been held frequently. But US commanders also acknowledge that this joint exercise is a pointed reminder to the North of US military strength and America's allegiance with South Korea. The US announced the exercises after the artillery barrage of Yeonpyeong, home to South Korean military bases and a small civilian population.

“While planned well before [Tuesday’s] unprovoked artillery attack, [the joint exercise] demonstrates the strength” of the US-South Korean alliance, according to a statement released Wednesday by the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet.

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The exercise, in the wake of what is widely considered the region's most dramatic flare-up since the Korean War ended in a cease-fire, “is meant to send a very strong signal of deterrence,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told CNN this week.

That said, he added, “We’re very focused on restraint – not letting this thing get out of control. The South Koreans have so far responded that way. Nobody wants this thing to turn into a conflict.”

An aircraft carrrier, the USS George Washington, and four other US Navy ships are currently making their way toward the Yellow Sea to take part in the training exercises. They will include air defense and also surface warfare readiness training, according to the US military, which “maintains a robust forward presence in the Asia-Pacific region,” the Seventh Fleet release further noted. These exercises will last until Dec. 1 and may involve air defense and submarine drills, as well as test-firing the ships' weapons, including dummy torpedos, according to US Navy officials.

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