Korea, Australia set for first joint naval drill next week
The Korean and Australian navies will hold their first joint drill next week off the southern coast of South Korea, officials said Thursday, amid concern that North Korea may conduct a third nuclear test.
The two-day drill, set to begin Monday off the northeastern coast of Jeju Island, will be focused on sharpening their combined abilities in detecting and tracking enemy submarines and torpedoes, Seoul's Navy officials said.
About 10 warships and submarines from the two nations, including Australia's 3,759-ton guided-missile warship, the Ballarat, and South Korea's Aegis-equipped destroyer, the Sejong the Great, will be involved, officials said.
Korean Lynx helicopters and P3-C anti-submarine surveillance aircraft will also be mobilized, officials said.
"The navies from the two nations are expected to strengthen their joint capabilities in anti-submarine warfare," a Navy official said on the condition of anonymity.
The Australian warship made a port call in the southern port city of Busan earlier in the day to participate in the drill, code-named "Haedori-Wallaby," the official said.
It will be the first joint naval drill between Korea and Australia since their defense chiefs agreed last December to hold regular combined naval drills, the Navy said.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are high after North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket on April 13, although it fell apart shortly after take-off. Concerns have grown that the North may soon conduct a third nuclear test as its two previous rocket launches in 2006 and 2009 were followed by nuclear tests.
Many analysts have said the North's next nuclear test is just a matter of time following the unsuccessful attempt to launch a long-range rocket. (Yonhap)