5 nations to join anti-proliferation drill off Busan

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5 nations to join anti-proliferation drill off Busan

In a signal to North Korea to avoid any future attacks, a five-nation anti-proliferation exercise will take place near Busan in October, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.

According to the ministry, a regional maritime interdiction exercise under the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) will take place off the waters of Busan for two days starting Oct. 13.

“Asia-Pacific nations including the United States, Japan, Australia and Singapore will participate in the drill,” said Ryu Je-seung, a senior policy planning official of the Defense Ministry, in an information session with security specialists about the March sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan.

In the drill, the multinational forces will perform maneuvers to stop a vessel presumed to be transporting weapons of mass destruction (WMD), board the ship, take control of it and search the cargo. According to Ryu, the drill will include destroyers, P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft as well as special Navy and Maritime Police units trained to board vessels.

The ministry also said the South Korean military will join a PSI exercise in Australia in September.

The Proliferation Security Initiative was established in 2003 after the U.S. failed to stop a North Korean missile shipment in international waters.

In November 2002, the United States, in cooperation with the Spanish authorities, stopped a North Korean ship in the Arabian Sea transporting 15 Scud missiles and 15 conventional warheads to Yemen, but had to release it the next month because there were no legal grounds to hold it.

The Bush administration announced the Proliferation Security Initiative, a move aimed at stopping shipments of WMDs through interdiction on the high seas, in May 2003, and 90 countries joined it. China is not a member of the PSI.

North Korea has reacted sensitively to South Korea’s plan to host the PSI exercises in its waters. Earlier this month, the North Korean Workers’ Party’s mouthpiece Rodong Shinmun said it will consider South Korea’s participation in a PSI exercise a de facto declaration of war.

Following the North’s alleged torpedo attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan in the waters near the inter-Korean border, a series of military messages to the North have been planned. In addition to the PSI, the U.S. and South Korea will stage joint naval drills in the Yellow Sea and East Sea later this month after details are finalized at talks between the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers in Seoul next week.

China opposes that drill, reiterating its opposition at a Foreign Ministry briefing on Thursday. But Seoul and Washington maintain the drill is a message for Pyongyang, not Beijing.

The ministry also said it will resume parts of its psychological warfare against the North if it makes anymore attacks. “We have completed installing loudspeakers at 11 locations along the border,” Ryu said. “They will be used to punish the North in case of any additional provocation.”

He said six operational bases are ready to send 1.23 million propaganda leaflets to the North. “We will decide when to begin the psychological warfare operation taking into account the Group of 20 summit in November and the North’s reaction, as well as developments in inter-Korean relations,” he said.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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