USS George Washington, S. Korea military drills send mixed signals to North Korea
The United States is getting tough on North Korea by conducting military drills using the USS George Washington with South Korea next week.
(Page 2 of 2)
On Wednesday, deep cooperation, friendship, and mutual support will be the themes of the day in which Gates and Mrs. Clinton are supposed to lay wreaths at the South Korean war memorial and visit the demilitarized zone that has divided North and South Korea since the end of the Korean War. Not a whisper of differences is likely to be heard emerging from meetings that will also feature a supporting cast including Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, and Adm. Robert Willard, chief of the US Pacific command.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Also on hand will be two other senior officials, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and Sung Kim, the US nuclear negotiator. They in particular will want to look beyond Wednesday’s meetings to the possibility of resuming six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program after the exercises are done.
The meetings Wednesday will deal with “how to promote alliance cooperation and how to get out of the Cheonan incident politics,” says Mr. Paik. He predicts “some disagreement” between the US and South Korea “in determining how early to return to six-party talks,” last held in Beijing in December 2008.
How about China?
As for holding the exercises off the east coast rather than in the Yellow Sea, Paik believes “China will accept it as a compromise and a smart move.”
At the same time, the whole display is intended to allay South Korean concerns ranging from doubts about the future of the alliance to leftist protests against what some see as a show that’s likely to increase tensions.
Building up goodwill, the USS George Washington is mooring this week at the South Korean port of Pusan and hosting tours of journalists, VIPs, and citizen groups, including orphans. Three destroyers with Aegis countermissile systems will also be in Pusan and also in Chinhae, the port off the southern coast that is the headquarters for US and South Korean naval operations.
“It’s good public relations for the South Koreans,” says an official at the US military headquarters here. “It’s to show force and build up relationships.”
South Korean experts agree.
“Basically, it’s to show power to North Korea,” says Kim Tae-woo at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. “It seems to be diluted by moving the exercises from the Yellow Sea, but politically it’s a very important event, and we welcome it.”
“At this moment,” he asked rhetorically, considering China’s qualms about exercises in the Yellow Sea, which borders China, “what else can we expect?”
- North Korea threatens military response if UN condemns it for ship sinking
- North Korea threatens to attack ships; South Korea holds navy drills
- North Korea news coverage