SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States and South Korea went ahead with large-scale joint aerial drills on Monday, a move North Korea had said would push the Korean peninsula to “the brink of nuclear war”, ignoring calls from Russia and China to call them off.
FILE PHOTO: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un visits the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Academy on its 70th anniversary, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang October 13, 2017. KCNA/File Photo via REUTERS.
The drills come a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States as part of a weapons program that it has conducted in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said it was “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.
China and Russia had proposed that the United States and South Korea stop major military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programs. Beijing formally calls the idea the “dual suspension” proposal.
The annual U.S.-South Korean drill, called Vigilant Ace, will run until Friday, with six F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to be deployed among the more than 230 aircraft taking part.
North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country called U.S. 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”.
F-35 fighters will also join the drills, which will include the largest number of 5th generation fighters ever to have taken part, according to a South Korea-based U.S. Air Force spokesman.
Around 12,000 U.S. service members, including from the Marines and Navy, will join South Korean troops. Aircraft taking part will be flown from eight U.S. and South Korean military installations.
South Korean media reports said B-1B Lancer bombers could join the exercise this week. The U.S. Air Force spokesman could not confirm the reports.
Trump said last week that additional major sanctions would be imposed on North Korea after Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missile test.Read More