SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- No U.S. aircraft carrier was expected to participate in the joint military drills with South Korea scheduled for late February, a local daily said Tuesday citing Seoul's military officials in what appeared to be their efforts to minimize the possible backlash from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
According to the South Korean military authorities cited by the Donga Ilbo, Seoul and Washington have decided not to mobilize any U.S. aircraft carrier at the computer-simulating "Key Resolve" command post exercise, which will begin in late February.
The 97,000-ton USS George Washington, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier deployed at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, will be not mobilized during the planned joint military drills, the newspaper said.
"At present, there is no plan to deploy any other aircraft carrier during the exercises to replace the USS George Washington, " a military official was quoted by Donga as saying.
The USS George Washington, commissioned in 1992 and sent to the Japanese naval base in 2008, was planned to be sent to Virginia for its midlife overhaul. USS Ronald Reagan was expected to replace it to the base in Japan.
Asked whether the report is true, Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a routine press briefing that it was not necessarily for the U.S. aircraft carrier to join the Key Resolve exercise annually, saying that whether to deploy any aircraft carrier will be finally decided later.
The DPRK has called for South Korea and the United States to cancel their joint military drills, including the "Key Resolve" and the "Foal Eagle" filed training exercise scheduled for late February to April. Seoul refused the call, saying that the exercises will be conducted as planned as the annual drills were defensive in nature.
Pyongyang also showed its conciliatory gesture toward Seoul, proposing to end all hostilities, including provoking, slandering and hostile military acts. Seoul doubted that Pyongyang may have an ax to grind.
Last year, the U.S. Air Force's B-2 stealth bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons, conducted its first-ever firing drill in South Korea during the joint exercises. The U.S. military also deployed other nuclear-capable weapons such as B-52 bombers and submarine USS Cheyenne during the drills.