US carrier to visit S.Korea ahead of joint exercise

SEOUL, July 19, 2010 (AFP) - A US aircraft carrier and three destroyers will visit South Korea this week ahead of a naval exercise to deter North Korea following the sinking of one of Seoul's warships, officials said Monday.

The 97,000-ton USS George Washington, based in Yokosuka, Japan, will arrive Wednesday at the southern port city of Busan for a five-day port call, the US military said in a statement.

Three destroyers from the US carrier's strike group, including the USS McCampbell, will also visit South Korean ports on the same day, it said.

"Our presence here is a testament to the strength of our alliance and our constant readiness to defend (South Korea)," the US carrier's commanding officer, Captain David Lausman, said in the statement.

Seoul and Washington are going ahead with war games this month to deter Pyongyang.

Details of planned bilateral exercises will be announced this week when US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visit Seoul.

They will hold talks with their counterparts Wednesday in a show of solidarity amid tensions with North Korea over the sinking of South Korea's Cheonan warship in March.

The South and its US ally, citing findings of a multinational investigation, accuse the North of torpedoing the warship and killing 46 sailors.

The North angrily denies involvement and says a UN Security Council statement on July 9 -- which condemned the attack without specifying the culprit -- proves its point.

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