The United States and South Korea began a series of large-scale military exercises across the Korean peninsula on Monday, as analysts claim war is a higher possibility than ever.
The annual operation, known as Vigilant Ace, will involve drills of 230 aircraft, including six immensely powerful F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and B1-B Lancer bombers, accompanied by 12,000 soldiers from both the Marines and the Navy.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry confirmed that the operation was “aimed at enhancing the all-weather, day and night combined air power operation capabilities of South Korea and the U.S.” and will involve preparing for wartime scenarios that include neutralizing North Korean nuclear and missile targets.
However, a recent analysis by the Pentagon has determined that a ground invasion of North Korea would be the “only way” to fully disarm the country of its nuclear arsenal.
Responding to the announcement, North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country described President Trump as “insane” and claimed the drills would “push the already acute situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.” The country’s Central News Agency also warned that both countries were “begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula.”
The agency added that Pyongyang would “seriously consider” countermeasures against the drill and that both countries would “pay dearly for their provocations.”
The drills follow reports last week that North Korea had successfully conducted another ballistic missile launch across Japan as the country continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions, as it continues to threaten both the U.S. and South Korea with wholesale nuclear destruction. Yet the Air Force claimed that the drills were “not in response to any incident or provocation” and pointed out that the U.S. and South Korea carry them out every year.
On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-NC) called for families of American military personnel to leave South Korea amid rising tensions in the region as war becomes “more likely.”
“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea,” Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, said on CBS’s Face the Nation. ”So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”
Last week, the Chinese military also conducted large-scale military exercises on its border with North Korea but said that they were “not aimed at any country,” despite the country’s Foreign Ministry outlining their “grave concern and opposition to the DPRK’s launching activities.”