The United States and South Korea start a 5-day military air exercise
The United States and South Korea began a large-scale combined military air exercise called Vigilant Ace on Dec. 4, on the week after North Korea tested what would be arguably the most powerful missile that is capable of reaching much of the continental United States.
The five-day exercise involves 12,000 military personnel and 230 aircraft—including six F-22 and 18 F-35s, both with stealthy capabilities. South Korean media speculates that B-1 bombers would also participate in the exercise.
"This realistic air combat exercise is designed to enhance interoperability between U.S. and Republic of Korea forces and increase the combat effectiveness of both nations," stated the U.S. Air Force’s Pacific Air Forces Command before the exercise.
South Korean military officials confirmed that the exercise aims to carry out simulated strikes on North Korean nuclear and its missile testing sites. A senior South Korean Air Force official also told CNN that the exercise would include practice attacks against a mock North Korean missile launch site with the presence of mock North Korean radars.
Military experts believe that the secretive F-22s and F-35s that will appear in the exercise would be key to an actual attack on North Korea as they are invisible to North Korean radars.
Although it is said officially that the exercise is just a regular “war game” every year and is "not in response to any incident or provocation," it has unsurprisingly irritated North Korea.
North Korea’s state-run media described the exercises as a "grave provocation," saying that "ceaseless large-scale war games" by the US and South Korea are "creating a situation that a nuclear war may break out any moment." They warned that North Korea would “seriously consider” countermeasures against the provocation.
Just over the last weekend, officials of both North Korea and the United States said the risk of a war between two states has been increasing.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry said US President Donald Trump was addressing an "extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean Peninsula," in a statement released Saturday. Meanwhile, White House national security adviser HR McMaster said that the chance of war on the Korean Peninsula is “increasing every day."