Tensions high as US, South Korea launch largest war drill
BANGKOK (ANN Desk) – North Korea accuses Donald Trump of ‘begging for nuclear war’
The US and South Korea launched their largest-ever joint military exercise on Monday, prompting North Korea to accuse President Donald Trump of “begging for nuclear war”.
The five-day Vigilant ACE (air combat exercise) comes less than a week after the North fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile that it claimed sealed its status as a nuclear-armed state. Pyongyang said the Hwasong 15 ICBM tested on Wednesday brought the entire US mainland within range of its “super-large” nuclear warheads. Independent scientists agree the new missile can reach the US mainland but are sceptical that North Korea has mastered re-entry technology necessary to deliver warheads.
Pyongyang claims the US-South Korea drill – which features 230 aircraft, including F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters, and tens of thousands of troops – could be a preparation for war.
“The US is publicly touting the objective of the drill as enhancing the actual combat capability to disable the DPRK’s [North Korea’s] major strategic bases in the early stages of war,” the foreign ministry told Xinhua.
It pointed out that Washington has just wound up a large-scale nuclear war drill against the North featuring three nuclear-powered aircraft carrier strike groups. Such exercises are fuelling the speculation that a US nuclear attack on North Korea is indeed possible and plausible, Xinhua reports.
US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, warned that the US was moving closer to “pre-emptive war” with the North, reports AFP.
“If there’s an underground nuclear test [by the North], then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States,” Graham said.
The annual joint exercise has drawn keen media attention, although it was scheduled before Wednesday’s missile launch.