Multinational anti-mine war games are underway in South Korea
SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S. and South Korean navies on Tuesday kicked off the first combined multinational mine warfare exercise to take place off the peninsula’s southeastern coast since the Korean War.
The drills are the latest show of force as tensions have skyrocketed on the divided peninsula after North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and nearly two dozen missile launches since January.
Naval units will practice clearing shipping routes and operational areas, while mine-clearing helicopters will rehearse countermeasures from the air, a Navy statement said.
Underscoring the international nature of the threat, eight other nations are participating, including the Philippines and Thailand for the first time.
The event combines an expert-level mine-countermeasures symposium and the Clear Horizon live-action exercise in waters near the southeastern port of Chinhae.
“Mines can disrupt sea lines of communication, which are vital to the economic vitality of this great nation and the entire Pacific region,” Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, said in the statement.
“Mines impede our freedom of navigation in international waters — a principle that underpins international commerce on the open seas and the prosperity of all of our countries represented here today and that is why we are here, to improve our collective ability to defeat the real threat of mines,” he added.
The training includes personnel from the USS Pioneer, Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7, along with MH-53E helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 and teams from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 5.
Washington and Seoul conduct about 20 annual joint training exercises they say are aimed at strengthening their alliance and preserving stability on the peninsula and regionwide.
North Korea frequently lashes out at the drills, which it considers rehearsals for an invasion.