Joint air force drills between the US and South Korea, featuring hundreds of warplanes, kicked off despite dire warnings from Pyongyang and Moscow's calls to avoid new provocations.
The Vigilant Ace 18 drills, which Seoul claims are of a purely "defensive nature," will see hundreds of US and South Korea's aircraft honing their skills by attacking mock North Korean nuclear and missile objects in different war time scenarios, Yonhap reported, citing South Korea's defense ministry.
They will for the first time feature six F-22 Raptor stealth jets that arrived to South Korea specifically for the war games along with six F-35As stealth jets.
Part of the US force taking part in the wargames, including a dozen of F-35B stealth jets, will fly from a Japanese airbase, where they have been stationed.
The large-scale maneuvers, reportedly "the largest-ever combined air force drills between the allies" will also involve dozens of other fighter jets on both sides, as well as American B-1B Lancer strategic bombers and carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft.
A total of 12,000 personnel and over 230 military aircraft will be engaged in the drills that will run to December 8.
Days after the air force exercise was announced, North Korea test-launched its new Hwasong-15 missile, which it says is capable of reaching the whole US mainland.
Pyongyang lashed out at the drills as incitement to a nuclear war.
"The Trump team is begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula," North Korea's Foreign Ministry stated in a statement on Saturday.
Seoul rejected the accusations, insisting its massive drills with US is "an annual joint military exercise among the allies of a defense nature," Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman of South Korea's Ministry of Unification said on Monday, as cited by Yonhap.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team