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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S., Britain to hold drills in waters off Korean Peninsula

2013/12/05 17:07

BUSAN, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea, the United States and Britain will jointly carry out previously planned naval drills in southern waters off the Korean Peninsula, military officials here said Thursday, amid an air defense zone dispute near the area.

The two-day exercise, which is slated for Dec. 8-9, will mobilize South Korea's 7,600-ton Aegis destroyer, America's 9,800-ton Aegis cruiser Shiloh and the Royal Navy's Daring-class 8,000-ton stealth destroyer, military authorities here said.

Naval ships of South Korea, the United States and Britain are anchored at the southern port of Busan on Dec. 5, 2013 before jointly carrying out naval drills in waters off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula from Dec. 8-9. (Yonhap)

Ahead of the drill, American and British naval ships arrived at the southern port city of Busan earlier in the day.

Upon arrival, Adm. George Zambellas, the British Royal Navy's chief, visited the Busan Naval Operations Base to participate in a welcoming event hosted by the South Korean Navy chief Hwang Ki-chul, the Navy said.

The trilateral drills will take place at a time of heightened regional tension triggered by China's establishment of a new air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, raising speculation over its intentions.

Seoul's defense ministry said the drill is not targeted at China, noting it had been timed to coincide with the British naval ship's port call at the South Korean port.

"This drill has been scheduled well in advance, and it was not arranged to protest China's recent declaration of the air defense zone," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. "The joint exercise is aimed at capitalizing on the British naval ship's visit."

   The last joint drill involving British troops took place in 2008, the Navy said.

The U.S. Forces Korea said the naval exercise is aimed at improving teamwork and interoperability between the three navies in security cooperation and humanitarian relief operations.

"This is an exceptional opportunity to bring together three navies that have historically worked very closely together as allies and close friends," said Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea. "This exercise provides our navies a chance to work together and learn from each other so we may continue to fulfill our common interests in preserving a safe and secure maritime environment."

   ejkim@yna.co.kr

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