By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2010 - South Korean officials announced that two of the four dead in the unprovoked attack by North Korea yesterday were civilians.
President Barack Obama told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak that the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with South Korea.
Obama strongly condemned the North Korean attack on the island of Yeonpyeoung. He said North Korea must stop its provocative actions, which will only lead to further isolation, and fully abide by the terms of the Armistice Agreement and its obligations under international law.
The two presidents agreed to hold combined military exercises and enhanced training in the days ahead to continue the close security cooperation between our two countries, and to underscore the strength of the alliance and the commitment to peace and security in the region.
The USS George Washington carrier strike group will join South Korean naval forces in the Yellow Sea west of the peninsula from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 to conduct the next exercise in the series announced at the 2-plus-2 meetings in July.
This exercise is defensive in nature, said United Nations Command officials in Seoul. "The intent of the series of exercises is to enhance our interoperability with the Republic of Korea, but also as a deterrent to North Korea," Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan said today during a press availability.
The USS George Washington with an embarked carrier air wing, the cruiser USS Cowpens, and the destroyers USS Lassen, USS Stethem and the USS Fitzgerald will participate in the exercise along with South Korean ships. The United States has notified China, Japan and other nations in the region of the exercise in international waters. The USS George Washington last exercised in the area in October 2009.
Officials planned the exercises well in advance of yesterday's North Korean artillery attack, Lapan said.
"Past exercises, sanctions, international condemnation -- there have been any number of things that have been intended to curb the North's aggression, but for whatever reason they have chosen to disregard," he said.
The North Korean attack is a violation of the Armistice Agreement signed in 1953. It follows the North Korean sinking of the South Korean ship Cheonan in March -- an attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors.
There have been many North Korean breaches of the armistice over the years, but it is one of the first to target civilians. The attack has had a chilling effect on the people of South Korea.
"Just the act of aggression itself -- regardless of who was killed -- is what's of concern to us, but certainly attacking civilians takes this to a different level than we've seen in the past," Lapan said.
Obama said the United States will work with the international community to strongly condemn this outrageous action by North Korea, and to advance peace and security in the region.
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