Senior U.S. diplomats and two warships are converging on South Korea, in a show of solidarity four months after the sinking of a South Korean military vessel.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Seoul late Monday for three days of talks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join him on Wednesday for so-called two-plus-two talks with their South Korean counterparts.
U.S. authorities also announced that the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and two destroyers will visit the South Korean port of Busan for five days beginning Wednesday. Another destroyer will visit the port of Chinhae.
Officials did not say whether the American warships will take part in a joint naval exercise that has troubled China. Details of the exercise, which will include maneuvers in the Yellow Sea, are to be finalized during this week's meetings.
China has vital seaports and economic zones along its Yellow Sea coast. It has objected to the exercise, but the United States says the maneuvers are intended to send a "clear message of deterrence" to North Korea.
A South Korean investigation produced what it said was strong evidence that North Korea was responsible for the sinking in March of the warship Choenan, killing 46 South Korean seamen. North Korea has denied any responsibility.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.