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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S., Japan to carry out joint naval drills next week

2013/10/02 18:35

(ATTN: CHANGES time element throughout to clarify trilateral drills taking place next week, South Korea-U.S. exercises already under way; UPDATES with more details)

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will jointly carry out naval drills with United States and Japan in waters off the Korean Peninsula's southern coast next week to bolster interoperability between the nations, military officials in Seoul said Wednesday.

The drills will involve the American aircraft carrier the USS George Washington and Aegis destroyers of South Korea and Japan, which will carry out maritime maneuvering and search and rescue operations from Oct. 8-10.

The training will also include the guided-missile cruiser the USS Antietam CG-54 and the guided-missile destroyer the USS Preble DDG 88. Fighter jets, anti-submarine helicopters and early warning aircraft will also be included.

Ahead of the trilateral training, the nuclear-powered 97,000-ton supercarrier will arrive in the South Korean port city of Busan on Friday, the U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement.

U.S. Navy crews plan to participate in various cultural events there for four days before joining the trilateral training, it said.

The George Washington Strike Group has been carrying out joint naval drills with the South Korean Navy's Aegis destroyers from Monday, which will run through Thursday. It is a routine training exercise conducted two or three times when a U.S. carrier makes a port call here, military officials said.

The strike group has approximately 6,000 sailors assigned to its ship, including embarked battle staff, a carrier air wing and the ship's company personnel.

North Korea has condemned the allies' joint drills as a prelude to war. In March, Pyongyang threatened to strike Seoul and the continental U.S. when the two nations' forces conducted their annual drills involving stealth bombers, stealth jets and aircraft carriers.

The two Koreas technically remain at war, as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.