Tuesday, July 20, 2010

USS George Washington to Visit Republic of Korea

By Special to American Forces Press Service
American Forces Press Service

July 18, 2010 - USS George Washington, the U.S. Navy's only permanently, forward-deployed aircraft carrier, will visit the Korean port of Busan July 21-25, 2010, officials at U.S. Forces Korea announced today.

In addition to USS George Washington, three destroyers from its strike group will also visit Korean ports. USS McCampbell and USS John S. McCain will visit Busan, and USS Lassen will visit Chinhae.

"The U.S. Navy maintains a robust forward presence in the Asia-Pacific region and the people of the Republic of Korea are our good friends and allies," said George Washington commanding officer Capt. David Lausman. "Our presence here is a testament to the strength of our alliance and our constant readiness to defend the Republic of Korea."

While in Busan, the George Washington will host a reception for distinguished members of the community, and will conduct a number of guided tours of the 97,000-ton aircraft carrier.

"For more than 60 years, we have maintained a strong alliance with the Republic of Korea," said Lausman. "My crew is thrilled with the opportunity to interact with the Korean people and show them their incredible level of pride and professionalism."

While in port about 300 George Washington sailors will volunteer their time to landscape a home for the elderly, visit an orphanage and help make repairs at a local school.

"These deeds are a small token of goodwill on our part towards Korea and lets them know we care," said George Washington Chaplain Cmdr. Brian Haley. "This is also character building for our sailors, so I think this is really a win-win opportunity for them and us."

The George Washington departed its forward operating base of Yokosuka, Japan, on July 9. The ship last visited Busan in October 2008.

Gates to Underscore U.S. Commitment to South Korea

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

July 19, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here tonight for a visit intended to underscore the U.S. commitment to South Korea and provide framework for further strengthening the alliance between the two nations.

Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will meet with their South Korean counterparts in the first "2-plus-2 Talks" between the two nations. Among other agenda items, they're expected to finalize details for a series of military exercises to be conducted over the next several months, officials said.

The USS George Washington will arrive July 21 in Busan on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula for a port visit that will last until July 25. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters traveling with Gates that the port visit's timing, in conjunction with the 2-plus-2 Talks, provides "a visual, tangible manifestation of our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea."

After the port visit, Morrell added, the George Washington will participate in the first of the U.S.-South Korean military exercises expected over the coming months. The George Washington is the U.S. Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier. Three destroyers from its strike group also will visit South Korean ports this week. USS McCampbell and USS John S. McCain will visit Busan, and USS Lassen will visit Chinhae.

"Our presence here is a testament to the strength of our alliance and our constant readiness to defend the Republic of Korea," Navy Capt. David Lausman, the George Washington's commanding officer, said in a written statement released by U.S. Forces Korea.

The 2-plus-2 Talks and the George Washington's port visit come amid continuing world reaction to North Korea's March 26 sinking of the frigate Cheonan, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.

A senior Defense Department official speaking on background said last week that discouraging North Korea from continuing its aggressive behavior is part of the aim of Gates' visit and the exercises that will follow.

"We're trying to send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea," the official said, "which we hope will have an effect of impressing upon them that they need to reconsider the sort of behavior they've been engaged in, including the Cheonan [incident]. We're also seeking to work with [South Korea] to increase and enhance the alliance's capabilities -- readiness, flexibility and our operational capacity. So I think there's a real purpose to these exercises."

Also on the agenda for the talks is the transfer of wartime operational control of forces on the Korean peninsula to the South Korean military by December 2015. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced a delay in that transfer – originally scheduled for April 2012 – after they met during the G-20 Summit in Toronto last month.

"This gives us appropriate time ... within the existing security context to do this right," Obama said in Toronto, "because this alliance is the linchpin of not only security for the Republic of Korea and the United States, but also for the Pacific as a whole."

Gates also will participate in an observance of the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War during his visit.