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)