Wrecked S. Korean warship Cheonan after being raised from the bottom.
Pyongyang is issuing its usually blustery rhetoric about joint U.S.-South Korean naval exercises scheduled for this weekend near the Korean peninsula. It has promised a "physical response" to what it termed America's "gunboat diplomacy".
Although it has been long planned, the exercise is viewed as a response to North Korea's sinking of a South Korean warship in March that killed 46 sailors. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said it would be held to send a "clear message" to North Korea to stop its "aggressive behavior."
NPR's Jackie Northam reports from Hanoi, Vietnam, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is attending the ASEAN regional summit:
North Korean diplomat Ri Tong-il says the military exercises will be against the sovereignty and security of North Korea and he warned there would be what he called a "physical response" against [the] threat imposed by the U.S. military. He did not elaborate.
ASEAN has a history of issuing toothless proclamations and its looking like that's what it will do regarding the issue of the sinking of the S. Korean warship, writes the Asian Times' Peter Lee:
It now appears that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will come up with nothing stronger than the Security Council statement, and South Korea has indicated it may abandon the effort to extract any kind of meaningful condemnation from the regional grouping.
Lee says the exercises themselves have also become an "embarrassing fizzle". First, an armada of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and about 20 other ships, 200 aircraft - including the F-22 stealth fighter, 8,000 U.S. and South Korean troops were to war game in the Yellow Sea between China and the Korean peninsula. But after strong objections from Beijing:
the expected location began to drift eastward, first toward the south of the peninsula and now into the oceans between the east coast of Korea and Japan.
The most recent report is that the US will, with Solomonic wisdom, split the difference in a dual-sea exercise, with the George Washington and three destroyers in the east and a face-saving smaller exercise in the west.
On All Things Considered yesterday, NPR's Mike Shuster also had this in-depth analysis on the issue.