Protests break out as United States, S.Korea begin major air drill

US begin five-day military drill

Protests break out as United States, S.Korea begin major air drill

"My understanding is that US Air Force aircraft, including six F-22 Raptors and six F-35A Lightning II aircraft, have all arrived in South Korea for the Vigilant Ace exercise", a South Korean military official said on December 3.

This deployment, as well as the three U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers deployed last month near the North Korean waters, falls under the agreement in October between Seoul and Washington to increase rotational deployment of strategic assets of the U.S. in the Korean peninsula.

South Korea is a key U.S. ally in the region and relies on USA military assistance for security against the North. Troops from the two countries routinely train together, each time prompting outbursts from Pyongyang.

Part of the United States force taking part in the wargames, including a dozen of F-35B stealth jets, will fly from a Japanese airbase, where they have been stationed.

More than 230 warplanes including six F-22 Raptors and six F-35As along with 12,000 personnel will take part in what has been dubbed as the largest-ever air force drill between the two allies.

Days after the air force exercise was announced, North Korea test-launched its new Hwasong-15 missile, which it claims is capable of reaching the whole USA mainland.

The North Korean regime, which usually considers such military exercises as an attempt to invade its territory, condemned the Vigilant Ace drills on Sunday.

"The Trump team is begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely unsafe nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula", North Korea's Foreign Ministry stated in a statement on Saturday.

South Korean media reports said B-1B Lancer bombers could join the exercise this week.

Seoul rejected the accusations, insisting its massive drills with United States is "an annual joint military exercise among the allies of a defense nature", Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman of South Korea's Ministry of Unification said on Monday, as cited by Yonhap. "We are making efforts to resolve the North's nuclear issue peacefully with the global community".

While many South Koreans typically ignore North Korea's rhetoric, some senior American officials have expressed worry following the ICBM test, North Korea's third.

North Korea has been eligible for even harsher sanctions since US President Donald Trump declared it a designated state sponsor of terrorism last month, and White House National Security Advisor H.R McMaster has admitted the newspaper editorial's warning of war was credible. According to the newspaper, the military initially planned the launch the unit in 2019, but has now sped up the timeline.

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