The Pentagon announced Thursday that the U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington will participate in planned exercises with South Korean forces in the Yellow Sea, between the Korean Peninsula and China. The announcement comes in spite of strong objections from China.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell made the announcement, saying the carrier's return to the Yellow Sea will be part of the series of U.S.-South Korean air and naval exercises that started late last month east of the peninsula.
"They will be taking place in both the East and West Sea, in both the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. They will, once again, involve the USS George Washington," said Morrell. "And the USS George Washington will exercise in the Yellow Sea, in the West Sea, but I don't have for you yet dates when that exercise involving that aircraft carrier will take place."
The exercises were announced in the wake of the sinking of a South Korean ship in March, killing 46 sailors. An international investigation concluded a North Korean torpedo sank the ship, but North Korea has denied the charge.
The George Washington participated in exercises with South Korean forces east of the Korean Peninsula in late July, but U.S. officials had been vague about whether it would participate in the Yellow Sea exercises, which Morrell says will happen "over the next several months."
China has strongly objected to the prospect of U.S.-South Korean exercises in the Yellow Sea, particularly if they involve the huge, highly capable USS George Washington and its aircraft. But the United States says the Yellow Sea is an international waterway, aside from the 12-mile offshore zone every country controls, and it reserves the right to exercise its naval forces in all such waters. Officials say the George Washington last steamed through the Yellow Sea late last year during routine operations.