SKorea to hold military drills with United States after possible UN action over ship sinking

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea will hold military exercises with the United States after any possible U.N. action against North Korea over its alleged sinking of a South Korean warship, the South's military said Tuesday.

Seoul has asked the U.N. Security Council to punish Pyongyang over the sinking, which killed 46 South Korean sailors on board. North Korea denies involvement and has warned any punishment would trigger war.

South Korea "will conduct the drills by linking them to the result" of possible U.N. Security Council action against the North, said Col. Lee Bung-woo, a spokesman for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He did not elaborate on the exact timing and scale of the drills off South Korea's western coast. The exercises were originally scheduled for last month.

Seoul's announcement came days after China held live-fire drills off its eastern coast in what were seen as a response to the planned joint naval exercises by Washington and Seoul.

"We have expressed our concerns to relevant parties," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference Tuesday, referring to the planned joint exercises.

South Korea and the U.S. are pushing for Security Council action against Pyongyang. But the outlook is unclear as veto-wielding permanent members China and Russia have yet to clearly say whether they believe North Korea was responsible for the sinking.

Also Tuesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry repeated Pyongyang's demand that its own investigators be permitted to go to the South to verify the result of an international investigation led by South Korea that implicated the North. Seoul has rejected the North's request.

In comments carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry also called for working-level military talks with the South to arrange high-level discussions over the issue.

Last month, the U.S.-led U.N. Command — which oversees the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War — proposed military talks with North Korea to discuss the warship sinking. The North declined.

The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against the North.


Associated Press Writer Cara Anna contributed to this report from Beijing.