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USS George Washington, S. Korea military drills send mixed signals to North Korea

The United States is getting tough on North Korea by conducting military drills using the USS George Washington with South Korea next week.

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US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks to troops during a stop at Camp Casey, on Tuesday, July 20, in Seoul, South Korea. Mr. Gates will join Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and Gates's counterpart, Kim Tae-young, on Wednesday.

Mark Wilson/AP

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The United States is sending mixed signals to North Korea, China – and also South Korea – in a display of high-level solidarity with the South that includes one of the biggest displays of military might in the region in recent years.

The two US cabinet members with the greatest influence on US policies overseas, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, are seeing their counterparts in Seoul on Wednesday to fortify an alliance that at times has appeared weak and vacillating.

Officials have dubbed the meetings the “two plus two” talks, the first time the Defense secretary and secretary of State have descended upon Seoul simultaneously, and they’ve already begun pouring out statements and messages on the enduring strength of the alliance. The most dramatic signal will be military exercises, led by the aircraft carrier George Washington, that Mr. Gates and Korea’s defense minister, Kim Tae-young, say are “designed to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behavior must stop.”

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