The US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USGeorge Washington leaves for joint naval and air drills with South Korea at a naval port in Busan, South Korea, July 25, 2010. South Korea and the United States on Sunday began their large-scale joint military drills off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula as scheduled.
By Guo Qiang
Shortly after concluding its naval war games with South Korea in the waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula this week, the US sent the carrier USS George Washington to Japan to participate in another joint military exercise. Analysts say this move can serve only to worsen the tense situation on the divided peninsula and threaten regional stability.
US Major William Vause, chief of operational plans, training and exercises, said in a statement that the drills, codenamed "Keen Sword," will last from today to December 10 in Japanese waters off its southern islands, close to the southern coast of South Korea.
The drills involve around 34,000 Japanese defense personnel with 40 warships and 250 aircraft, as well as more than 10,000 of their US counterparts with 20 warships and 150 aircraft, forming the biggest-ever war games between the two countries, according to Vause.
Integrated air and missile defense, base security, close air support, live-fire training, maritime defense, and search and rescue will be covered in the drills, AFP reported.
The joint maneuvers between Washington and Tokyo followed those between Washington and Seoul that concluded Wednesday amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The two Koreas exchanged fire last week in waters off the peninsula's west coast, resulting in at least four deaths.
A Beijing-based military strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Global Times Thursdaythat "North Korea's hard-line moves are attempts to pressure the US into holding bilateral talks. Pyongyang is confident that it can keep the situation from evolving into war. China's influence is limited in the face of such an independent North Korea."
Responding to the US-Japan joint exercise, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursdaythat "the US-Japan alliance should not damage the interests of third parties, including China, and the international community does not support actions that escalate tensions."
She reiterated Beijing's belief that dialogue and negotiations are the only solutions for the Korean Peninsula issue.
The joint maneuver between the US and South Korea mobilized a combined 7,300 troops, the 97,000-ton aircraft carrier George Washington and about 10 navy ships.
In an interview with the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military drills with South Korea had been planned a month ahead of time, and the US had informed China of their objective and how long the drills would last.
China had expressed objections to the drills, saying it was opposed to such military activity in its exclusive economic zone.
But Mullen reiterated the US' stance that the drills were held in international waters, and the US will continue to hold drills there in the future.
In another development, South Korea moved more troops and guns onto its islands that border the North this week, AFP reported Thursday.
"The danger of further attacks from North Korea is high," South Korean National Intelligence Service Director Won Sei-Hoon said during a closed session of Parliament's intelligence committee, reports said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to meet with the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan in Washington on Monday for crisis talks, Reuters reported Wednesday.
South Korea, Japan and the US are reportedly reluctant to accept proposals, made by China on Sunday, to hold emergency consultations in Beijing early this month to ease tensions.
China followed up that proposal by calling on Wednesday for calm and restraint, advising parties involved to avoid escalating the problem by doing anything that would "inflame the situation."
Fang Xiuyu, an analyst of Korean issues at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times that protecting South Korea and Japan are just excuses made by the US to expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Geng Xin, deputy director of the Tokyo-based Japan-China Communication Institute, told the Global Times that "frequent military drills involving the US are dangerous - inflaming the situation and threatening regional security."
He urged the US to act responsibly by accepting China's call for international talks.
Geng also noted that "economic relations among China, Japan and South Korea are unlikely to be affected, despite the war games, since the framework for economic cooperation runs deep in the region."
Source: Global Times