U.S. forces practice strikes on North Korean nuclear sites in biggest ever joint air drill with South Korea

Monday, 04 December 2017, 09:19:51 PM. The air forces have begun five days of drills.

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The United States and South Korean air forces began their largest ever joint drill Monday, carrying out simulated strikes using 230 aircraft over South Korea.

The New York Times reported the drills would include some of the military’s most sophisticated and powerful aircraft such as B1-B lancer bombers and stealth F-35 Lightning II fighter and F-22 Raptors. It is the largest deployment of stealth fighters warplanes ever to South Korea.

Related: North Korean Missile Hwasong-15 could carry multiple warheads to strike U.S. mainland

The huge drills come less than week after Pyongyang announced it had tested another ballistic missile. The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired in the early hours Wednesday was the largest and most powerful launched by the rogue state.

The Hwasong-15 flew further than any of its predecessors and as well as seeming capable of reaching parts of the continental United States, it also appeared to have been designed to carry multiple warheads.

21_4_F-35A Lightning II An F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter takes off on a training sortie at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on March 6, 2012. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force photo/Randy Gon/Handout

Agence France Presse said that as well as the unprecedented number of aircraft involved in the annual drill, tens of thousands of troops would also be involved in the Vigilant Ace exercise.

Pyongyang has vehemently criticized the U.S. and its southern neighbor for the drills, stating the administration of President Donald Trump was “begging for nuclear war.” North Korea’s state news outlets have reported the country would “seriously consider” measures against the drill, adding the U.S. would “pay dearly for their provocations.”

As tensions rise over the threat of nuclear war in the Korean peninsula, the Republican Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham urged the Pentagon to move the families and dependants of the 28,000 U.S. troops out of South Korea.

“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea,” Graham said.

The five days of drills will reportedly be held using wartime scenarios that will include preparing for an attack on North Korean nuclear and missile targets.

Two months had passed since Pyongyang's last nuclear test when the rogue state launched the ballistic missile Wednesday last week, which dashed hopes that tensions were dissipating. Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday the chances of war with Kim Jong Un’s regime were “increasing every day.”

“Every time [Kim] conducts a missile launch and nuclear test, he gets better,” McMaster said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California. “And whether it's a success or a failure isn't as important as understanding that over the years he's been learning from failures, improving and thereby increasing his threat to all of us,” he added.

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