Anti-submarine exercises and flights from U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors were the focus Monday of the second day of the “Invincible Spirit” exercises by U.S. and South Korean forces, according to news reports from the Korean peninsula.
Four F-22s, the United States’ most advanced stealth fighter, flew missions over South Korea for the first time, said the commander of the U.S. 7th Air Force, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Remington, according to a report from South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
"As with all of our combined air assets in theater, the F-22s stand ready to respond in the defense of the Republic of Korea," Remington said at Osan Air Base, according to Yonhap.
At sea, a group of 20 U.S. and South Korean vessels, led by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, practiced anti-submarine warfare, according to a Voice of America report from the 97,000-ton carrier.
"Our intent is to improve defense capabilities in areas such as anti-submarine warfare, air defense and anti-surface warfare," the VOA report quoted Rear Adm. Dan Cloyd, commander of the George Washington’s strike group, as saying.
The exercises come after the March sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in which 46 sailors were killed. An international inquiry found a North Korean torpedo attack was behind the sinking, but Pyongyang has denied any responsibility and has threatened to a “physical response” to the U.S.-South Korean exercises.
U.S. vessels will come no closer than 200 kilometers to the maritime boundary between North and South Korea waters, according to the VOA report.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Peter Walczak on board the George Washington told VOA that the anti-submarine exercises are routine for U.S. forces.
"The only extra precaution is that, maybe, were more observant to what is going on in the area. A little more sensitive to intel reports, what have you. The ship itself, the airplane flying, the schedule, it is pretty much what we do with standards operations. Our alert posture is not necessarily any higher than any other time during normal operations," VOA quoted him as saying.
Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said “Invincible Spirit” is the first of a series of exercises to be held off the Korean Peninsula.
“These defensive, combined training exercises are designed to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behavior must stop,” Sharp said in a statement.
The current exercises continue through Wednesday. Tuesday is the 57th anniversary of the armistice which ended the three-year long Korean War.