Tensions persist on Korean Peninsula despite calls for restraint

12:59, November 28, 2010      

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The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States went ahead with a scheduled naval drill on Sunday, despite protests and concerns from the divided Korean Peninsula and elsewhere amid dangerously high tensions on the peninsula.


The high-profile four-day war games, involving the nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington plus a cruiser, three destroyers, a naval patrol ship and an antisubmarine warfare aircraft, was meant to show a "commitment to regional stability through deterrence," according to a statement from the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

The drill, kicked off in waters west of the peninsula only five days after an exchange of artillery fire between the ROK and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), "demonstrates the strength" of the alliance between Seoul and Washington and is designed to improve the two nations' military interoperability, it added.

U.S. and ROK militaries said the exercises were "planned well before" Tuesday's skirmish, but they decided to go ahead with it despite protests from South Korean civilians, warnings from the DPRK and concerns expressed by China and other countries.

A news photo issued by ROK's Yonhap News Agency showed that a group of South Koreans held a rally in front of the Yongsan U.S. military base in Seoul on Friday, condemning the participation of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the joint naval drill.

In Pyongyang, the DPRK's official KCNA news agency denounced the drill on Saturday, warning that if "the U.S. brings its carrier to the West Sea of Korea at last, no one can predict the ensuing consequences."

In another article issued on Friday, the agency said the U.S.-ROK drill is pushing the Korean Peninsula "to the brink of war."

"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war due to the reckless plan of those trigger-happy elements to stage again the war exercises targeted against the DPRK," it said.

China on Friday expressed its opposition to any military operations in its exclusive economic zone without permission, including the drill.

"We hold a consistent and clear-cut stance on the issue. We oppose any party to take any military actions in our exclusive economic zone without permission," said a statement by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei.

The Chosun Sinbo newspaper published in Tokyo, Japan, also warned on Saturday that the drill may bring about a "catastrophic situation."

The Philippine government said Thursday it is "worried" over the joint U.S.-ROK naval drill, saying it might further escalate tensions on the peninsula and endanger the security of thousands of Filipinos living and working in ROK.

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