WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2010 - As the United States and South Korean militaries wrapped up four days of joint naval exercises, the task force commander said he’s “exceptionally satisfied” with capabilities demonstrated during operations that sent a strong deterrent message to North Korea.

“It certainly sends a message of collective and unified deterrence –- that we are prepared, we are ready, collectively, as allies,” Navy Rear Adm. Dan Cloyd, commander of Task Force 70 and Carrier Strike Group 5, said last night during a Pentagon Channel interview. “We certainly hope our activities here send a message that we are capable and we are ready to respond together to any potential contingency.”

The exercise was the third in the “Invincible Spirit” series Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and then-South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young agreed to over the summer after North Korea sank the South Korean navy ship Cheonan in March, killing 47 South Korean sailors.

The latest exercise, Cloyd said, was conducted to reinforce U.S. commitment to its alliance with South Korea, to reassure other allies in the region of that commitment and to demonstrate freedom of movement in international waters throughout the Western Pacific.

About 6,000 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and embarked Carrier Air Wing 5, the cruiser USS Cowpens and destroyers USS Lassen, USS Stethem and USS Fitgerald participated, along with South Korean navy ships and their crews. In addition, both countries’ air forces participated.

Operating off South Korea’s western coast, they conducted sustainability, readiness and interoperability training covering a broad spectrum of operations, from surface and anti-submarine warfare to air defense, Cloyd reported.

“By training and practicing these varies types of capabilities and skills together, it allows us to be more prepared to operate and execute these kinds of missions should it be necessary to do so anywhere in the Western Pacific region,” he said.

Cloyd said he’s “extremely confident in our collective capabilities to be able to execute any number of missions we may be asked to do,” from “higher-end” operations such as those practiced during the exercise to humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The first Invincible Spirit exercise, conducted in July, focused on naval and air readiness. The second, in October, involved five days of anti-submarine warfare exercises.

The third exercise initially was slated for late October, but it was postponed due to scheduling issues. It began days after North Korea launched an artillery attack against the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong that left four dead, including two South Korean marines.