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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. start naval exercises involving nuclear-powered flattop
SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States on Monday began two days of joint naval exercises off the east coast involving the nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier.

   The 97,000-ton USS Nimitz (CVN 68) left the southeastern port of Busan earlier in the day for the exercises with South Korea's Navy in the East Sea near Pohang, a senior military official said.

   The Nimitz Strike Group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and guided-missile cruisers and destroyers.

   South Korea mobilized the Aegis-equipped destroyer King Sejong and the DDH-II class destroyer Chungmugong Yi Sunshin for the exercises. Aegis destroyers of the two countries will carry out missile detection, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft maneuvers, military officials said.

   Details of naval powers mobilized in the drill were not disclosed.
The USS Nimitz (CVN 68) leaves the port of Busan to take part in a naval exercise in the East Sea on May 13, 2013. (Yonhap)

Although Seoul and Washington have said the maneuvers are part of annual training and defensive in nature, North Korea has consistently denounced the arrival of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

   Pyongyang's Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said over the weekend that the arrival is "an open threat and blackmail against the DPRK (North Korea), and a grave military provocation to unleash a nuclear war against it at any cost on the Korean Peninsula."

   The Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), said in an article Monday that the naval exercise is a dress rehearsal for the invasion of the North and a very dangerous and reckless move.

   "The latest maneuver is dangerous because it comes right after South Korea and the United States concluded the annual Foal Eagle military drills all across the Korean Peninsula," it said.

   This view was echoed by Uriminzokkiri, North Korea's main Internet-based media or propaganda Web site, that claimed the carrier battle group's presence is aimed at stifling the communist country and highlights Washington's long-held ambition to dominate all of Asia.

   The attacks, meanwhile, are nothing new as Pyongyang has long bristled at military exercises between the U.S. and the South.

   ejkim@yna.co.kr
yonngong@yna.co.kr
(END)
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