Nonproliferation drill off Busan this month

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Nonproliferation drill off Busan this month

A large-scale military drill to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will be hosted by South Korea for the first time, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

South Korea will host the drill in waters near Busan with roughly 15 other countries participating, the ministry said yesterday.

The two-day drill will start on Oct. 13, and participants will include the United States, Japan and Australia. The drill will focus on intercepting vessels suspected of shipping weapons of mass destruction with surface ships, submarines and fighter jets. Two South Korean 4,500-ton torpedo destroyers, two landing ships and four submarines will be joined by a 9,000-ton Aegis destroyer from the U.S., a 4,000-ton Japanese destroyer and Australia’s maritime surveillance patrol aircraft.

“This drill will not only fulfill our duty as an official participating country of the PSI [Proliferation Security Initiative] by fully displaying our will and efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but will heighten the status of our country as a responsible member of the international community,” said a Defense Ministry spokesperson yesterday.

President Lee Myung-bak said in May that South Korea would take part in PSI training as a form of punishment against North Korea for sinking the Cheonan warship in March (which Pyongyang denies). However, the Defense Ministry yesterday said next week’s drill is not aimed at any specific country.

“We will halt and search vessels suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction during the maritime training, and the drill scenario is not aimed at a particular country, like North Korea,” a Defense Ministry official said. “PSI drills are usually carried out without target countries in mind.”

The PSI, designed to intercept dangerous weapons and materials, was launched by former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2003 and endorsed by the South Korean government in May 2009 after a North Korean nuclear test.

North Korea has condemned South Korea’s decision to join the PSI.

The last PSI drills held in the Asia-Pacific region were in September near Australia.

A seminar will also be held to discuss the Proliferation Security Initiative with experts on various related subjects ranging from foreign affairs to maritime law.

By Christine Kim []
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