The joint naval drill mobilizes a nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class submarine, Aegis destroyers, P-3C maritime surveillance aircrafts deployed from U.S. bases as well as South Korean destroyers, submarines and maritime aircrafts, military officials said.
“It is part of an annual routine drill held to prepare against an adversary’s submarine infiltration,” a military official said, requesting anonymity.
The latest military training comes after the two allies completed their two-month-long Foal Eagle exercise last week, amid high inter-Korean tensions due to Pyongyang’s warlike threats against Seoul and Washington.
On Sunday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency condemned the upcoming naval drill, saying the fate of a joint industrial zone in the North hinges on Seoul.
Claiming a 97,000-ton Nimitz-class nuclear powered super carrier is expected to join the training, a spokesman for the Policy Department of the National Defense Commission called on Seoul to stop “hostile acts and military provocations” if it wants to normalize the suspended Kaesong Industrial Zone.
In response to Pyongyang’s call to stop military training to resume inter-Korean talks, Seoul’s defense ministry on Monday vowed not to give in to Pyongyang’s demands.
“It is inappropriate that the North is demanding the cancellation of South Korea-U.S. joint drills by linking it with the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. “As the drills are designed to defend against North Korean provocations, they cannot be stopped.”
“As long as the North maintains its hostile stance, the joint drills will continue,” Kim said.
Although Pyongyang has routinely called the annual training a rehearsal for a northward invasion, its rhetoric turned more hostile this year under young leader Kim Jong-un, even threatening nuclear strikes against the South and the U.S.
According to the U.S. Navy’s website, the Nimitz Strike Group, consisting of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and guided-missile destroyers and cruisers, arrived in the U.S. 7th Fleet on May 3.
The Nimitz Strike Group will conduct exercises and port visits to enhance maritime partnerships and promote peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region along with its allies, the U.S. Navy said.
Seoul’s defense ministry didn’t confirm the participation of the U.S. carrier, noting consultations are currently underway between the two sides.
North Korea has a large fleet of submarines, and one of them is blamed for torpedoing the South Korean warship Cheonan in the Yellow Sea in March 2010, killing 46 sailors.
About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice agreement, not a peace treaty.