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U.S. Navy eager to send ships to Jeju naval base

2015/08/05 16:01

SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) -- The United States Navy wants to send its ships to South Korea's naval base on the southern resort island of Jeju once constructed for navigation and training purposes, the outgoing head of the U.S. naval forces stationed here said Wednesday.

"The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet really likes to send ships to port visit here in South Korea," Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti said in a group interview following a change of command ceremony. "I think any ports that we have the opportunity to visit will be a great opportunity for our navy to do work together (with the South Korean Navy)."

   Wrapping up her 2 1/2 years of service as the commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Korea, the rear admiral now will take up a new mission in the U.S. In the ceremony, Rear Adm. William Byrne took over the position.

"Any port that we are able to bring our ships to, we will take advantage of that for great (navigation) liberty and great training," Franchetti said.

Her remarks highlight the U.S.' willingness to engage in naval activities in the geopolitically sensitive maritime arena.

Under an ambitious Navy project, South Korea is building the naval base on the southern tip of the Jeju Island, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The port is capable of accommodating 20 combat ships and two cruise vessels at a strategic naval point leading to the Asian Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea, where Asian naval rivalries are brewing.

Some critics have said the new naval base for both military and commercial purposes could increase regional tension, especially between China and Japan or China and the U.S.

Touching on North Korea's growing nuclear threats and provocations, the outgoing rear admiral said the U.S. and South Korean navies are well-trained to deal with any type of North Korean threats.

"I think our navy, we are very well-rounded in our training, and that's what makes us come together to defeat anything that North Korea might develop today or in the future," she said, alluding to North Korea's nuclear weapons.

Also referring to the South Korea-Japan diplomatic tension feared to hamstring the trilateral military partnership among the neighbors and the U.S., she said moves like recent trilateral military exercises are a "good first step."

  

Outgoing Commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Korea Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti (R) speaks in an interview on Aug. 5, 2015, next to her successor, Rear Adm. William Byrne. (Yonhap) Outgoing Commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Korea Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti (R) speaks in an interview on Aug. 5, 2015, next to her successor, Rear Adm. William Byrne. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr

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