US holds drills off Korea as Pyongyang talks war
ABOARD USS GEORGE WASHINGTON — U.S. and South Korean warships and helicopters practiced anti-submarine maneuvers off the Korean peninsula Monday, readying defenses against the kind of weapon that allegedly sank a South Korean navy vessel earlier this year.
The destruction of the Cheonan in March, which has been blamed on North Korean torpedo, killed 46 sailors in the worst military disaster for the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.
The four-day "Invincible Spirit" exercises involving 20 ships, 200 aircraft and about 8,000 U.S. and South Korean sailors are being held in response to the sinking, bringing threats of retaliation from North Korea, which denies responsibility for the attack.
The anti-submarine phase of the training — which also involves anti-ship and anti-aircraft operations — is particularly important because an international investigation found that the 1,200-ton corvette Cheonan was sunk by a torpedo launched from a North Korean submarine that somehow penetrated South Korea's defenses.
"I am concerned about every submarine underwater that I don't know about," said Capt. David Lausman, the commanding officer of the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered supercarrier deployed to the maneuvers from its home port in Japan.
Lausman said the attack — which North Korea denies having ordered — demonstrated the opaque nature of Pyongyang's military, which he said should not be underestimated.
"North Korea's danger lies because they are unpredictable," he said. "The sinking of the Cheonan is a prime example."