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On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the planning and the dates of the military exercises had been set prior to the North Korea attack. But, he said China and Japan were not notified of the exercises until after the artillery assault.

The exercises are aimed as a deterrent to North Korea, he said, but are not a reaction to the latest shelling. According to the military, the ships involved in the exercise include the USS George Washington carrier strike group, which is already under way toward international waters off Korea.

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.