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US Defense Secretary Announces Plans for Joint US/South Korean Military Exercises

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the United States will participate in combined military exercises with South Korea to counter North Korea's recent provocative military action. He made the announcement Saturday at an Asia security summit for defense ministers and intelligence officials in Singapore.

During his speech Saturday at an Asia Summit in Singapore, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates again condemned North Korea's provocative military action in sinking a South Korean warship in March and killing 46 sailors. He said the incident is part of larger pattern of reckless behavior and that North Korea continues to undermine the peace and security of Asia.

"North Korea has for some time faced the choice of continuing as a destitute, international pariah, or charting a new path. Since then, the North Korean regime has only further isolated itself from the international community," he said.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the attack, but a multinational investigation team concluded that North Korea was responsible.

Gates promised continued U.S. support for South Korea and said the two nations will conduct joint military exercises in response to the sinking.

Pentagon officials say any such exercises may not take place until it becomes clear what the United Nations will do. Gates said the intention is to demonstrate to Pyongyang that its aggression will not go unchecked.

"Since the sinking of the Cheonan, the United States, the Republic of Korea, and others have been in close consultations," he said. "My government has offered full support of our ally in this difficult hour. We will conduct combined military exercises with South Korea and support action in the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, we are assessing additional options to hold North Korea accountable."

The U.S. defense secretary called upon other nations in the region to collectively pressure North Korea to change its belligerent behavior.

Gates also addressed the lack of military cooperation between the United States and China, North Korea's strongest ally. China ended cooperation on strategic issues following the Obama administration's decision in January to go ahead with arms sales to Taiwan worth $6.4 billion. He defended the arms sales as a long standing policy and vital to regional security.

"It has been clear to everyone, during the more than 30 years since normalization, that interruptions in our military relationship with China will not change United States policy toward Taiwan," he said.

Gates appealed to China to restore military cooperation to reduce misunderstanding and miscalculation.