US and South Korea start largest-ever joint air force drills

A US Navy photo obtained December 12 2016 shows an F-35B Lightning II aircraft as it launches off the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) on October 28 2016.
A US Navy photo obtained December 12 2016 shows an F-35B Lightning II aircraft as it launches off the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) on October 28 2016. Benjamin Wooddy/Navy Office of Information/AFP

US and South Korea start largest-ever joint air force drills

HONG KONG — The United States and South Korea began their largest combined air force drills Monday, with plans to carry out simulated strikes on North Korean nuclear and missile testing sites, South Korean military officials said.

Some 230 aircraft will take part in the drills, which will include some of the Pentagon’s most powerful warplanes, such as stealth F-35 Lightning II fighters and B1-B Lancer bombers. They come just a week after North Korea tested a missile that analysts said had the capability of reaching much of the continental United States.

The drills were part of an annual exercise that had been planned before North Korea conducted the missile test, officials said.

The exercise is “aimed at enhancing the all-weather, day and night combined air power operation capabilities of South Korea and the U.S.,” South Korea’s defence ministry said.

Such drills have drawn vigorous criticism from North Korea, whose state news media said Sunday that the latest exercises were pushing the Korean Peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war.” It warned that Pyongyang would “seriously consider” countermeasures against the drill and that the United States and South Korea would “pay dearly for their provocations,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency said.

Underscoring the tensions, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina urged the Pentagon on Sunday to move dependents of US service members out of South Korea because of the threat of conflict. More than 28,000 US troops are stationed there, many living with their families.

“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CBS’s Face the Nation.

“I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea,” he added.

The military exercises that began Monday involve 12,000 personnel and also include six F-22 Raptors, representing the largest deployment of the stealth fighters to South Korea, officials said.

The drills will be conducted under wartime scenarios that include attacks on mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets, South Korea’s military said.

North Korea’s missile launch last Tuesday came after more than a two-month lull in the country’s nuclear and missile testing, which raised some hopes that it might be extending an olive branch to ease the hair-trigger military tensions on the peninsula.

Gerry Mullany/The New York Times

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • NOCC to contest petanque, tennis axe

    The National Olympic Committee of Cambodia will lobby hard over the next few weeks for the inclusion of the Kingdom’s most productive medal-earning sport, petanque, along with vovinam and tennis after the disciplines were left out of the initial list of 30 preferred sports for