S. Korea, U.S. to hold joint naval drill

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South Korea and the United States will conduct a large-scale joint naval drill in the Yellow Sea next week, Seoul's Ministry of Defense said on Thursday.

The exercise, to be held from June 7 to 10, will aim to " demonstrate the strong willingness by both Seoul and Washington to deter" the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Seoul's Yonhap News Agency quoted the ministry as saying.

The drill will take place off the west coast near Taean of ChungCheongnam Province, and Pyeongtaek of Gyeonggi Province. But the detailed schedules will be confirmed on Friday, the ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae was quoted as saying.

According to Yonhap, the drill will be participated by some 20 warships, including the U.S. George Washington, a nuclear-powered 97,000-ton carrier, Aegis destroyer and a nuclear-powered submarine belonging to the U.S. 7th Fleet. The South Korean Navy will also mobilize a 4,500-ton destroyer, a submarine and F-15K fighter jets.

The drill comes amid rising tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang after South Korea announced to take firm countermeasures in response to the sinking of its warship Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors in late March.

Seoul has announced a slew of military, diplomatic and economic measures to punish the DPRK last month, after it made public the outcome of investigations over the Cheonan incident made by a multinational team, which said the warship that went into waters near a tense maritime border with the DPRK in March was torpedoed by the DPRK. But the DPRK firmly denied its involvement in the incident.

Last week, the South Korean Navy held a large-scale anti- submarine drill in the Yellow Sea, with an aim of deterring further aggression of the DPRK.

According to Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, the military measures will include holding military exercises aimed at deterring proliferation of Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, Seoul will no longer allow DPRK-flagged vessels in the South's territorial waters and forcibly return them in case ships do not comply with the measure, while it immediately resumes anti-Pyongyang propaganda activities, Kim said.

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