The United States and South Korea began large-scale joint aerial drills, prompting a warning from Pyongyang that such moves will push the Korean peninsula to “the brink of nuclear war”.
The drills, which will last for five days, were kicked off on Monday despite pleas from China and Russia to call them off, Reuters reports.
The annual joint US-South Korea military exercise, called Vigilant Ace, will feature six F-22 Raptor stealth fighters among the more than 230 aircraft taking part.
F-35 fighters will also join the drills, which will include the largest number of 5th generation fighters ever to have taken part, the report said, citing a South Korea-based US Air Force spokesman.
Around 12,000 US service members, including from the Marines and Navy, will join South Korean troops. Aircraft taking part will be flown from eight US and South Korean military installations.
The drill comes a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said it is “regrettable” that all parties had not “grasped the window of opportunity” presented by two months of relative calm before the North’s most recent test.
Speaking at a news briefing in Beijing, Wang said China consistently opposes any behavior that elevates tensions.
China and Russia had proposed that the US and South Korea stop major military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programs.
North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country called US President Donald Trump “insane” on Sunday and said the drills would “push the already acute situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war”.
The North’s KCNA state news agency, citing a foreign ministry spokesman, said on Saturday that the Trump administration was “begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula”.
Trump said last week that additional major sanctions would be imposed on North Korea after Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missile test.
Russia has accused the US of trying to provoke North Korean leader Kim Jong-un into “flying off the handle” over his missile program to hand Washington a pretext to destroy his country.
The joint exercises between South Korea and US are designed to enhance readiness and operational capability and to ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula, according to the US military.
– Contact us at [email protected]