SEOUL / BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States and South Korea carried out large-scale joint drills on Monday, a move that North Korea said would push the Korean peninsula to the "edge of nuclear war," ignoring calls from Russia and China to suspend them.
The simulations come a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States as part of a weapons program that it has carried out in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said it was "regrettable" that all parties had not "seized the opportunity" presented by two months of relative calm before the most recent test of the North.
China and Russia proposed that the United States and South Korea stop the main military exercises in exchange for North Korea to stop its weapons programs. Beijing formally calls the idea the "double suspension" proposal.
The annual simulation between the United States and South Korea, called Vigilant Ace, will run until Friday, and six F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighters will be deployed among the more than 230 aircraft that will take part.
The North Korea Committee for Peaceful Reunification called US President Donald Trump "insane" on Sunday and said the exercises "would propel the already acute situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war."
F-35 fighters will also join the drills, which will include the largest number of fifth generation fighters to have participated, according to an Air Force spokesman based in South Korea.
About 12,000 service members in the US US, including those of the Marine Corps and the Navy, will join the South Korean troops. The participating aircraft will be flown from eight US military installations. UU And from South Korea.
The South Korean media said the B-1B Lancer bombers could join the exercise this week. The spokesman for the US Air Force UU Could not confirm the reports.
Trump said last week that additional sanctions would be imposed on North Korea after Pyongyang's intercontinental ballistic missile test.
Russia has accused the United States of trying to provoke North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "abandon control" over its missile program to give Washington a pretext to destroy his country.
Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Wang said that China was constantly opposed to any behavior that would elevate tensions.
"And the measures that do not meet or are outside the Security Council's resolutions lack a basis in international law and harm the rights of the members of the United Nations," Wang said when asked about the possibility of new US sanctions against North Korea.
The Chinese Air Force said on Monday that its surveillance plane had conducted simulations in the past few days in the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea to "improve combat readiness and safeguard the strategic interests of the country." "
The plane took a flight route that had previously not flown to regions it had never operated before, and coordinated with fighter jets, warning planes and guided missile forces, spokesman Shen Jinke said, according to a publication on the official microblog of the Air Force.
Joint exercises between South Korea and the United States are designed to improve preparedness and operational capability and to ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula, the US military said. UU Before the drills began.
The North KCNA state news agency, quoting a foreign ministry spokesman, said on Saturday that the Trump administration was "begging for nuclear war by organizing an extremely dangerous nuclear play on the Korean peninsula."
North Korea regularly uses its state media to threaten the United States and its allies.
North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth and largest test of the nuclear bomb in September, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
He has said that his weapons programs are a necessary defense against US plans. UU To invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, denies such an intention.
Report of Christine Kim in SEOUL and Philip Wen in BEIJING; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in BEIJING; Nick Macfie edition