Südkorea/USA — U.S., South Korea Increase Military Exercises Following Attack

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2010 — The U.S. and South Kore­an mil­i­taries will under­go two new train­ing exer­cis­es in light of last week’s find­ing that North Korea sank a South Kore­an navy ship, killing 46 sailors, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman announced today.

The U.S. Navy com­mit­ted to con­duct­ing anti-sub­ma­rine and mar­itime inter­dic­tion train­ing with the South Kore­ans after con­sult­ing with their South Kore­an coun­ter­parts regard­ing the sink­ing of the frigate Cheo­nan on March 26, Bryan Whit­man told reporters.

An inter­na­tion­al team of inves­ti­ga­tors from Aus­tralia, Great Britain, Swe­den and the Unit­ed States assist­ed South Kore­an experts in exam­in­ing the foren­sic evi­dence left in the ship. They con­clud­ed in find­ings released May 20 that the 1,200-ton gun­boat was destroyed by a North Kore­an tor­pe­do.

“We have reached the clear con­clu­sion that [the] Cheo­nan was sunk as the result of an exter­nal under­wa­ter explo­sion caused by a tor­pe­do made in North Korea,” said Yoon Duk-yong, of the inves­ti­ga­tion team. “The evi­dence points over­whelm­ing­ly to the con­clu­sion that the tor­pe­do was fired by a North Kore­an sub­ma­rine. There is no oth­er fur­ther expla­na­tion.”

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates on May 22 said it will be up to South Korea, not the Unit­ed States, to deter­mine its response to the attack. South Kore­an Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-Bak announced today that the coun­try will end trade with North Korea and that North Kore­an ships no longer will be per­mit­ted pas­sage through South Kore­an water­ways.

Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton, on a pre-arranged diplo­mat­ic trip to Asia, today said U.S. and South Kore­an mil­i­tary lead­ers are work­ing close­ly to ensure readi­ness in the region.

“Pres­i­dent [Barack] Oba­ma has direct­ed his mil­i­tary com­man­ders to coor­di­nate close­ly with their Kore­an coun­ter­parts to ensure readi­ness and to deter future aggres­sion,” Clin­ton said. “As part of our ongo­ing dia­logue, we will explore fur­ther enhance­ments to our joint pos­ture on the penin­su­la.”

U.S. forces sta­tioned in South Korea always are at a “con­stant state of readi­ness” and com­man­ders will work close­ly with their South Kore­an coun­ter­parts, Whit­man said. The two train­ing exer­cis­es, while agreed upon because of the ship attack, are not unique and are part of the coun­tries’ bilat­er­al secu­ri­ty agree­ment, known as the Pro­lif­er­a­tion Secu­ri­ty Ini­tia­tive, Whit­man said. “We think this is an area, where work­ing with the Repub­lic of Korea, that we can hone skills and improve capa­bil­i­ties,” he said.

In light of this par­tic­u­lar inci­dent,” Whit­man said, “these two activ­i­ties are impor­tant in that we can con­tin­ue to build on our strong foun­da­tion of coop­er­a­tion and deter­rence.” Whit­man said there has been no deci­sion about chang­ing the mil­i­tary readi­ness lev­el in the region.

Gates will host the Japan­ese defense min­is­ter at the Pen­ta­gon May 25, where the issue like­ly will be dis­cussed, Whit­man said.

Mean­while, the Unit­ed Nations Com­mand is con­ven­ing a spe­cial inves­ti­ga­tions team, con­sist­ing of mem­bers from the UNC and the Neu­tral Nations Super­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion, to review the find­ings of the inves­ti­ga­tion and to deter­mine the scope of the armistice vio­la­tion that occurred in the sink­ing of Cheo­nan, accord­ing to a May 21 com­mand news release.

Unit­ed Nations Com­mand con­tribut­ing team mem­bers include rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Aus­tralia, Cana­da, Den­mark, France, New Zealand, South Korea, Turkey, the Unit­ed King­dom and the Unit­ed States. The com­mis­sion includes mem­bers from Swe­den and Switzer­land. The team will report their find­ings to the Unit­ed Nations, the release said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)