Spirited Discussions

By Dan Dupont / July 20, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his South Korean counterpart today announced new military exercises aimed at North Korea.

The American Forces Press Service has details on a statement issued by both:

The first in a series is a combined maritime and air readiness exercise named Invincible Spirit. About 8,000 U.S. and ROK military personnel will participate. The exercise is in response to the unprovoked attack on and sinking of the South Korean frigate Cheonan off the west coast of the peninsula. Forty-six South Korean sailors were killed in the North Korean torpedo attack on the vessel.

“This is the first in a series of ROK-U.S. combined naval exercises that will occur in both the East and West Seas,” the two defense ministers said in their joint statement. To Americans, the East Sea is the Yellow Sea and the West Sea is the Sea of Japan.

“These defensive, combined exercises are designed to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behavior must stop, and that we are committed to together enhancing our combined defensive capabilities,” the statement continued.

Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, put the exercises in context for reporters traveling with Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Willard said the exercise will begin at the conclusion of the Two-plus-Two meetings between the U.S. and Korean ministers of defense and foreign affairs.

Willard called the attack on the Cheonan “heinous.”

The exercise does include the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and ROK Navy ships. Aircraft will come from the U.S. Seventh Air Force, the George Washington’s Air Wing, the ROK air force and ROK anti-submarine aircraft. The exercise will include F-22 Raptor aircraft training for the first time in the theater, he said.

“In all, over a hundred aircraft will fly in the event,” Willard said. “The exercise will include a variety of training opportunities – flight operations from the carrier, there will be an air defense exercise, strike exercises and opportunities for passing exercises.”

“Anti-submarine warfare is also included in the exercise with both ROK and U.S. Navy ships and P-3 aircraft participating,” he said.

At the end of the exercise, there will be a counter special forces exercise. “These occur with some frequency in both the East and West Seas, conducted by the ROK and U.S. Navy,” Willard said.

Invincible Spirit is a large-scale exercise, the admiral stressed. “This is intended to send a signal to North Korea with regard to what has occurred post-Cheonan, and it is intended to signal to the region the resolve of this alliance and our commitment to one another and the scope and scale of our ability to operate together,” he said.