July 13, 2010 07:46
South Korea and the U.S. are mulling a joint maritime drill in both the East and West Seas this month after China lodged a protest against a huge U.S. military presence on its doorstep. The idea is to deploy some of the bigger American ships including an aircraft carrier to the east of the Korean Peninsula instead of the West Sea as originally planned.
A government source on Monday said there is "near-consensus" for turning the planned West Sea drill into an exercise in both the East and West Seas to reflect the positions of Beijing and Washington. The source said the change could be announced as early as Tuesday.
In that event a large portion of the key U.S. vessels, including ships from the Seventh U.S. Fleet such as the nuclear-powered 97,000-ton aircraft carrier USS George Washington, an Aegis cruiser and destroyer, and a nuclear-powered attack submarine, will be deployed in the East Sea, the source added.
The South Korean military had hoped to stage the drill in the West Sea in response to North Korea's attack on the navy corvette Cheonan there, but the U.S. is advising caution.
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young announced the original plan on May 24.
Meanwhile, the government and military authorities are considering an indefinite delay to the resumption of psychological warfare against the North.
Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae told reporters, "We've already announced a plan to install loudspeakers and launch a leaflet operation, which means psychological warfare has in a sense started." But he added the government also has to take long-term inter-Korean relations into account.
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