US, South Korea begin largest-ever joint air drill


It is scheduled to last five days and comes less than a week after the rogue state's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test, which Pyongyang claimed was capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

The five-day drill, which is called Vigilant Ace, is meant to improve the allies' wartime capabilities and preparedness, South Korea's defense ministry said.

Planned military drills between South Korean and U.S. forces will "precipitate their self-destruction", North Korea says, the day before the exercises begin.

On the U.S. side, the aircraft include six F-22 and six F-35A stealth fighters, 12 F-35Bs, six EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, around 10 F-15C and 10 F-16 fighters, the B-1B long-range bomber, and the E-3 early warning aircraft.

This photo, taken on December 2, 2017, shows U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets flying over South Korea's southwestern city of Gwangju.

The South Korean Air Force will dispatch F-15K, KF-16 and F-5 fighter jets and other planes for the exercises with about 230 aircraft at eight USA and South Korean military installations being mobilized.

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South Korea is a key United States 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. Such language is typical in North Korean propaganda because the country claims U.S.

North Korea regularly uses its state media to threaten the United States and its allies.

Pyongyang blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for raising tensions and warned at the weekend the Vigilant Ace exercise was pushing tensions on the Korean peninsula towards "a flare-up", according to North Korean state media.

Underscoring the tensions, Senator Lindsey Graham of SC urged the Pentagon on Sunday to move dependents of American service members out of South Korea because of the threat of conflict.

An editorial carried by the North Korean mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun said the drill is "an open, all-out provocation" and that it "may lead to a nuclear war at any moment". An evacuation of dependents by Seoul's closest ally and major military defender could prompt a panicked reaction by other countries, and among South Koreans.

Also on Sunday, the White House national security adviser said that Trump will take care of North Korean threats by "doing more ourselves".