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South Korea and China close to joint rescue exercises

South Korean and Chinese naval forces are close to agreeing on holding joint search and rescue exercises, a high-level government source said on Sunday. 

“China expressed the wish to hold joint SAR (search and rescue) exercises last Saturday during the inaugural South Korea-China strategic defense dialogue,” said the official.

The talks were led by Air Force Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and South Korean Vice Defense Minister Lee Yong-gul.

According to the source, the chances of holding the humanitarian search and rescue exercise are high.

SAR exercises are carried out as peaceful exercises to hone joint responses and develop a cooperation system, and promote friendly relations and military exchanges.

Korea has been holding similar exercises with Japanese forces, but this would be the first with Chinese.

“This is an exercise between nations that will raise the survival rates of Korean and Chinese sailors, especially because the waters around the Korean Peninsula see so many shipments,” said a military official.

“The search and rescue exercise held for humanitarian purposes can be seen as a message that the relationship between South Korean and Chinese forces is becoming institutionalized despite the North Korean situation,” said another military official.

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan will also hold security talks on Jeju Island on Monday to share information regarding humanitarian disaster relief missions, peacekeeping operations and anti-piracy measures at the Gulf of Aden.

The nations will also be able to exchange opinions regarding the Proliferation Security Initiative exercises which Korea will take a part of for the first time in Japan next year.

The PSI is an international effort of more than 90 countries to stop the illicit trade of weapons of mass destruction.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)
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