U.S., South Korea conduct naval exercises near disputed border

South Korea is observing the sixth anniversary of the Cheonan warship sinking.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  March 25, 2016 at 2:12 PM
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SEOUL, March 25 (UPI) -- South Korea and the United States conducted naval exercises near a disputed maritime border with North Korea in remembrance of soldiers killed at sea.

The joint training exercise was held in conjunction with other memorials across the country, Yonhap reported.

South Korea is observing the sixth anniversary of the Cheonan warship sinking – a torpedoing that killed 46 South Korean seamen on March 26, 2010.

Seoul's navy issued a statement vowing to "punish with firepower" any "enemy provocations."

The joint drills were held off the western coast of South Korea, but naval exercises were held around other coasts, Seoul said in statement.

The South Korean Navy 2nd Fleet Command supervised the joint drills that demonstrated the "strong willingness" of the U.S.-South Korea alliance against North Korea provocations, according to Seoul.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald deployed its five-inch naval guns in the training, and was joined by South Korea's Aegis destroyer King Sejong and other frigates, submarines, the P-3 Orion land-based maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft and Lynx offshore operations helicopters.

Exercise Foal Eagle, also being conducted jointly, is to include the deployment of the John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and is to conclude at the end of April.

"If the enemy provokes again, we will retaliate mercilessly with powerful counter-fire," said Rear Adm. Park Dong-sun, the South Korean commander of the Friday drills.

North Korea has recently stepped up its provocative rhetoric in the wake of heavier sanctions that passed unanimously at the United Nations Security Council and in response to the military exercises ongoing on the Korean peninsula.

Pyongyang has also threatened the South Korean president with assassination and vowed to turn Seoul into powder if provoked.

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