The United States and South Korea on Monday launched the largest air-to-air exercise in their history, which North Korea called a “total provocation,” days after Pyongyang tested the most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile it has tested so far. This was reported by AFP news agency.
The exercises, which began Monday morning and lasted for five days, involved 230 military aircraft, led by six US F-22 fighter jets and the tens of thousands of troops, the South Korean military said.
North Korea has previously condemned the operation, accusing the administration of President Donald Trump of “pursuing nuclear war at any price.”
According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the Vigilant Ace exercises on the Korean Peninsula are held annually to “strengthen the defense posture”, but this time it is “unprecedented in both size and strength.”
The kind of maneuvers provoked Pyongyang’s anger, which it sees as an invasion of its territory.
The exercise comes five days after the North launched an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting any location on the United States.
In a climate of tension, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a powerful US senator, saw the specter of “pre-emptive war” approaching. “If an underground nuclear test is conducted, we must prepare for a serious response by the United States,” he told CBS.
North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006, the strongest in September.
Graham, a foreign policy hawk, said Trump’s strategy was to “prevent North Korea from having the ability to strike the United States with a missile with a nuclear warhead.”
“Every test of a missile, every underground test of a nuclear weapon means that the combination (between a missile and a nuclear warhead) becomes more likely,” the senator said.
– War of words –
These remarks are a repetition of what General Herbert Raymond McMaster, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, said the prospect of war with North Korea “is increasing every day.” “We are in a race to find a solution to this problem,” said McMaster.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country had become a complete nuclear power with the test of the intercontinental missile Huasong-15.
Pyongyang said the missile could carry a “heavy heavy head” to any location in the United States on the North American continent.
But analysts speculate that the missile was equipped with a very light imaginary head and it is difficult to cut such a distance with a much heavier nuclear warhead.
Analysts have also not been convinced that the North has mastered the technology needed to keep the heads healthy when heating occurs when entering space from space.
North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic programs have been making strides since Kim Jong-un came to power in December 2011 despite UN sanctions.
In Tokyo, the Japanese parliament said Monday that North Korea’s missile tests pose an “imminent threat” to Japan, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said dialogue with the isolated country was meaningless.
The Japanese Senate unanimously adopted a resolution protesting North Korea’s test of a ballistic missile that landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone last week.
The test showed that Pyongyang is determined to continue its nuclear and missile programs and poses “an unprecedented, major and imminent threat to the security of the region, including Japan,” the resolution said.
“This is a challenge for the international community that should not be tolerated,” the text said.
Abe promised to intensify pressure on North Korea to change its tactics and modify nuclear technology in a “verifiable and verifiable manner”.
“Dialogue for dialogue is meaningless,” he said.
The crisis between the North Korean leader and the US president, which has reached an exchange of personal insults, has raised fears of a new conflict after more than 60 years of war on the Korean Peninsula (1950-1953).
But some say even in Trump that his military options are limited because Pyongyang could open its artillery fire on Seoul, where 10 million people live just 50 kilometers from the border.