S. Korea-US military exercise off North's coast

SEOUL • South Korea and the United States yesterday held a combined military exercise in the Sea of Japan or East Sea in a show of force against North Korea.

US guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance, P-3 patrol aircraft and South Korea's Aegis destroyer Yulgok YiYi, submarines, and anti- submarine helicopters carried out the war games in the first coordinated operation by the allies outside routine exercises, Yonhap said.

It was the first time US and South Korean vessels have operated together in waters so close to the east coast of North Korea, CNN reported, citing a US Navy official.

The ships were armed with long- range, precision, land-attack cruise missiles, the official said.

"We work side-by-side with our (Republic of Korea) partners every day; we are by their side today at sea, and we will remain by their side to defend against North Korea's unprovoked acts of aggression," Rear- Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Korea and Task Force 78, said in a joint statement.

Vice-Admiral Lee Ki Sik, commander of the South Korean fleet, said the allies will always be ready to deter aggression and defeat the enemy to maintain stability and security on the Korean peninsula and in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

North Korea held its most powerful nuclear test on Sept 9, only four days after firing off three ballistic missiles into the East Sea.

Yesterday's show of force followed last week's flight of US Air Force B-1 bombers along the Demilitarised Zone, the closest the bombers have ever flown to the line separating North and South Korea, CNN said, citing a US military source.

But some experts have expressed doubts whether such shows of force can deter North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from further tests.

Dr Victor Cha of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said the movement of military assets into the region is part of a US strategy that is "as predictable as it is ineffective".

"With each missile and nuclear test, Kim Jong Un appears to be gaining confidence and certainty that the world will recognise North Korea as a nuclear state and deal with it on those terms," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2016, with the headline 'S. Korea-US military exercise off North's coast'. Print Edition | Subscribe