The United States and South Korea plan a second combined naval exercise meant to send a message to North Korea. But these maneuvers, to be held in the Yellow Sea closer to China, will not involve a U.S. aircraft carrier.
U.S. military officials in South Korea and the Defense Ministry here in Seoul say the exercise next month will focus on anti-submarine warfare.
The U.S. military command here on Friday called the maneuvers "defensive in nature," and designed to "send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea."
Unlike the recent maneuvers off South Korea's east coast, the next training will not include the U.S.S. George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
"The George Washington is not scheduled to participate in this ASW (anti-submarine warfare) exercise, but will operate in the waters off the Korean peninsula in future exercises," said David Oten, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea.
China has strongly objected to the drills in the Yellow Sea, especially involving a U.S. aircraft carrier so close to its territorial waters.
But such a move by the American navy would not be unprecedented. The USS Kitty Hawk operated in the Yellow Sea in October 1994 and was reportedly involved in a tense "cat and mouse" game with a Chinese submarine.
U.S. officials stress that this year's intensive series of military exercises with South Korea are targeted at North Korea, not China.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen since the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean navy ship, five months ago in the Yellow Sea. The United States, South Korea and others who participated in an international investigation say a North Korean torpedo caused the sinking. Forty-six South Korean sailors died.
Pyongyang denies any involvement in the incident and says the recent U.S. and South Korean military exercises are preparations for an invasion of North Korea.
The three-year Korean War ended in 1953 with no peace treaty and the two Koreas technically remained at war.