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S Korea, US to stage series of naval drills: Ministry

South Korea and US will stage a series of naval exercises to deter the North.

Seoul: South Korea and the United States will stage a series of naval exercises this year to deter North Korea following the sinking of one of Seoul`s warships, the Defence Ministry said on Friday.

The ministry also announced that a separate anti-proliferation naval drill would be held off South Korea in October, as part of Seoul`s military response.

The South and its US ally, citing findings of a multinational investigation, accuse the North of torpedoing the Cheonan warship in March and killing 46 sailors.

The North angrily denies involvement and says a UN Security Council statement on July 09 -- which condemned the attack without specifying the culprit -- proves its point.

Seoul and Washington are going ahead with war games this month to deter Pyongyang. But the Defence Ministry says the venue has been switched from the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan (East Sea) following complaints from China.

In addition, a ministry spokesman said, "There will be a series of joint naval drills around the peninsula, probably 10, with US forces this year".

Some would be part of regular annual joint exercises and others were newly scheduled, he said, adding that none have so far been planned near the disputed Yellow Sea border with the North.

The ministry said it would host a Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) exercise on October 13-14 off the southern port city of Busan.

The United States, Australia, Japan and Singapore will also be among those taking part.

The PSI, launched in 2003 by then-US president George W Bush, aims to halt the shipping by sea or air of weapons of mass destruction.

The North, which has been accused of exporting missiles and nuclear know-how as well as conventional weapons, has described the South`s involvement in the drill as a declaration of war.


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