Over 200 US, S Korean Warplanes Conducting Secret Ops Amid Pyongyang’s Missile Test

The U.S. and South Korea are reportedly carrying out a large-scale joint air drill in South Korea, amid tensions in the region following North Korea’s recent missile test. 

Over 200 aircraft are said to be involved in the five-day drill that began Monday. The long-time allies are said to be keeping the aerial exercise low-key as the U.S. efforts to hold talks with North Korea about its nuclear program gain pace, reported The Drive. 

South Korea and the U.S. had previously collaborated on a large scale. The exercises called Vigilant Ace  held in 2017 witnessed the participation of tens of thousands of troops and 230 aircraft, including F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and bombers. A USAF B-1B bomber out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, had flown over the peninsula at that time, in what was seen as a show of force to Pyongyang.

The annual drill held every December was scaled back in 2018, following the revival of dialogues between the Koreas, and between the U.S. and North Korea. 

However, the maneuvers are back in large-scale this year. Reports say 100 fighter jets from each country are taking part in them, including South Korea’s F-15K and KF-16 jets. The U.S.’ F-16s will also be a part of the drill. However, no equipment or soldiers from the U.S. mainland would join the exercises.

In a statement to the Korean Yonhap news agency, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) said: “We cannot comment on the exercise as it is one that is not disclosed to the media.” The U.S. military has so far not released any information either, said The Drive report. 

North Korea recently test-fired a new, smaller ballistic missile from a submarine. Washington had then reacted by urging North Korea to refrain from further “provocations” and that the “United States remained open to engaging diplomatically with North Korea over its weapons programs.”

North Korea had earlier denounced the U.S.-South Korea drills calling them a “war rehearsal for an invasion and used them as an excuse for provocations.” The reclusive regime had also called for their cancellation as a condition to continued negotiations. 

Last week, the U.S. had called on North Korea to engage in talks. U.S. envoy for North Korea Sung Kim had then said that the United States is committed to exploring “sustained and substantive diplomacy” with North Korea.

Photo: AFP / JUNG Yeon-Je

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