South Korea, US start joint naval exercise

Seoul, April 11 (IANS) South Korean and US naval forces on Monday launched an 11-day joint maritime drill along the southern coast of the Korean peninsula.

The exercise, which will run until April 21, aims to improve joint preparation for search and rescue operations, as well as several submarine missions, a South Korean Naval Forces spokesman said.

The US navy will be commanding the 3,300-tonne rescue ship USNS Safeguard as well as 15 divers in the mock search and rescue, EFE news reported.

South Korea has deployed the 3,500-tonne Tongyeong rescue ship with 12 specialists from a rescue unit on board, the spokesman added.

Members of the joint naval forces will conduct deep sea diving and submarine drills to improve their coordination for rescue operations in both peace and wartime.

The exercise forms part of the Foal Eagle that began in March.

The annual Korea-US Foal Eagle and Key Resolve joint exercise this year involves 17,000 American and 300,000 South Korean soldiers – the largest one to date.

North Korea, in response to the drills that it considers an invasion threat, has made threats and fired short-range and medium-range missiles in recent weeks.

The tension on the Korean peninsula has escalated since January when Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test and later launched a long-range rocket with ballistic missile technology.

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