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U.S., South Korean Militaries Launch Joint Air Exercises


U.S., South Korea Launch Air Force Drills
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WATCH: U.S., South Korea Launch Air Force Drills

The U.S. and South Korean militaries have begun their largest-ever joint air exercise with five-day Vigilant Ace maneuvers involving more than 230 aircraft.

North Korea has called the drills are an "all-out provocation" that could lead to nuclear conflict "at any moment."

"The U.S. and South Korean puppet warmongers would be well advised to bear in mind that their [North Korean]-targeted military drill will be as foolish as an act precipitating their self-destruction," the North's ruling party Rodong newspaper wrote.

The North's KCNA state news agency, citing a Foreign Ministry spokesman, also said that Washington was "begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula."

The annual Vigilant Aced drill, which began on December 4 and will run through December 8, will feature six F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and F-35 jets among the aircraft taking part, a South Korea-based U.S. Air Force spokesman said.

Some 12,000 U.S. Marines, Navy, and other personnel will join South Korean troops in the drills.

The U.S. military said the joint exercise will enhance readiness and the operational capabilities of efforts to ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile on November 28, the latest in a series of launches that have raised tensions with the United States and its regional allies.

The Pentagon said initial assessments indicate that it was an intercontinental ballistic missile, a move that would be in violation of United Nations resolutions.

The U.S. military has some 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea to deter North Korean aggression.

Senator Sounds Warning On U.S. Military Families

Meanwhile, in Washington, an influential U.S. senator and hard-liner on North Korea says the U.S. military should begin moving family members out of longstanding bases in South Korea in the face of raised tensions with Pyongyang.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (file photo)
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (file photo)

Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) told CBS Television’s Face The Nation program on December 3 that it was "crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea."

"South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour. So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it's now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea," added Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Graham said he had confidence in the Trump administration's ability to handle the U.S.-North Korea standoff.

"He's got the best national security team of anybody I have seen since I have been in Washington," said Graham, who has served in Congress since 1995.

Graham also said the United States moves closer to "preemptive war" with every new test of a missile or nuclear weapons by the North Koreans.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
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