“Combined forces from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps will join the planned intensive drill to prepare against a variety of possible provocations. It is aimed at improving our military’s operational capabilities in the West Sea,” said Col. Lee Bung-woo, spokesman for the JCS, in a regular press briefing.
Lee said that the details of the exercise will be announced one day before the drill begins. He added that South Korea and the U.S. are currently coordinating details on another joint exercise in the West Sea sometime in September.
Some 20 naval vessels, including the 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyer, and 1,200-ton and 1,800-ton submarines, are expected to be deployed for the exercise. The P3-C antisubmarine surveillance aircraft, the Lynx antisubmarine helicopter, and F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets are also expected to be mobilized.
|In this photo released on Thursday by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held by the South China Sea Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army on Monday. AP-Yonhap News|
The military has been striving to bolster antisubmarine operations following the March sinking of the corvette Cheonan in the West Sea. A Seoul-led multinational investigation team concluded in May that the 1,200-ton vessel was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine. The North denies its culpability.
Due to the shallow waters and strong tidal currents, it had been thought that it would be difficult for submarines to maneuver in the West Sea. Thus, the military had focused less on antisubmarine operations in the West Sea than in the East Sea.
In related news, naval forces belonging to China’s People’s Liberation Army conducted a large-scale naval live-fire exercise in the South China Sea on July 26 when South Korea and the U.S. were conducting their joint exercise, according to several Hong Kong-based newspapers, including the Wenweipo and the South China Morning Post.
Citing information from the state-run CCTV and the website of China’s defense ministry, the news reports said that the Chinese naval forces deployed some of their principal destroyers and frigates during the exercise, which observers said might have been conducted in response to the South Korea-U.S. joint exercise.
Before the joint exercise took place in the East Sea, China presented strong objections to it, arguing that it could ratchet up tensions in the region.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries wrapped up the four-day military exercise on Wednesday, which was conducted in the East Sea to show off their combined military might against the North and deter future provocations.
During the maritime and air readiness exercise, dubbed “Invincible Spirit,” the allies mobilized some of their core military assets such as the 97,000-ton aircraft carrier USS George Washington and four F-22 stealth fighter jets.
Some 10 regular joint exercises are scheduled to take place until the end of this year.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com)