The US and South Korea began a major air combat exercise on Monday, which appears to be another show of strength following North Korea’s latest missile test late last month.
The US-South Korea air combat drills, named “Vigilant Ace”, seek to improve the all-weather, day and night combined operational capacity of the two countries, a spokesperson for the South Korean Defence Ministry told Efe news.
Although the Ministry did not confirm whether it was the largest air combat manoeuvers ever carried out between Washington and Seoul, local media suggested that this year’s operation marked the countries’ largest joint air drills ever recorded, with over 230 aircraft and some 12,000 troops in participation.
The US deployed over two dozen stealth fighter jets, including F-22s and F-35s, and two strategic B-1B bombers in the manoeuvers, which will conclude on Saturday.
The the biannual “Vigilant Ace” is part of a recent agreement endorsed in October between Washington and Seoul, which aims at expanding “rotational deployment” of US strategic assets on the Korean peninsula and pressuring North Korea to drop its nuclear programme.
The North Korean regime, which usually considers such military exercises as an attempt to invade its territory, already condemned the Vigilant Ace drills on Sunday through a statement published by the state news agency KCNA.
On November 29, North Korea launched their Hwasong-15 rocket, its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile to date which has put Pyongyang closer to striking the US with nuclear weapons.