The U.S. Air Force flew six advanced stealth tactical fighters over South Korea Monday, part of the largest ever joint airborne military exercises conducted by Washington and Seoul.
North Korea lashed out at the drills, warning they are pushing the Peninsula to “the brink of nuclear war.”
The annual military exercises, long scheduled for this week, have garnered greater attention coming days after Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on Nov. 29.
North Korea claimed their ICBM is capable of hitting any part of the mainland U.S. — but experts suggest otherwise.
The missile, which was seen re-entering the atmosphere by the crew of a Cathay Pacific flight, ramped up already simmering tensions in the region, with the U.S., South Korea and even China promising harsher sanctions following the launch.
Over the weekend, officials from North Korea and the U.S. exchanged barbs.
Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that Donald Trump was “begging for war,” a day later the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the exercises are “a dangerous provocation as it is driving the tension on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war.”
In California Sunday, national security adviser H.R. McMaster warned the threat of war is on the Peninsula is growing daily, while Sen. Lindsey Graham urged the Pentagon not to send any spouses or siblings of soldiers to South Korea given the threat level. “I think we’re really running out of time,” he said.
The Vigilant Ace 18 air combat exercise with South Korea kicked off on Monday with some 12,000 personnel and 230 warplanes, including the top-of-the-line F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets.
“The realistic air combat exercise is designed to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and Republic of Korea and increase the combat effectiveness of both nations,” the Seventh Air Force said in a press release.