ROK-U.S. joint drill to be staged off E coast first

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The joint South Korea-U.S. joint naval drill is expected to be staged this month, starting from waters off the country's east coast first, Seoul's Ministry of Defense confirmed to Xinhua Thursday.

A senior official at the ministry told local media earlier in the day that South Korea and the United States have agreed to carry out the joint naval drill in the East Sea first later this month, which will be participated in by the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, then it will be transferred to waters in the Yellow Sea.

According to the official, the concrete date of the drill will be finally decided next week when defense and foreign ministers of the two countries meet in Seoul at so-called "two-plus-two" security talks.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit Seoul next week to discuss the bilateral alliance.

The official said Seoul and Washington had originally planned to stage the naval drill participated in by the U.S. aircraft carrier off the west coast (Yellow Sea), but later agreed to change the location. Beyond that, Seoul will also stage some 10 drills in waters off its east, west and south coasts later this year, he added.

Seoul announced in May it will conduct joint naval drills with the United States, after it made public the outcome of investigations over the sinking of the navy frigate "Cheonan" 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 which denied the blame. But the drills have been repeatedly postponed.

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