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US, S Korea extend air drills after N Korea missile launches | Military News

Washington, Seoul to extend Vigilant Storm air drills that had earlier prompted North Korea to warn of repercussions.

South Korea and the United States have agreed to extend their largest-ever military air drills in response to North Korea’s latest firing of missiles, including a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The allies have been conducting one of the largest air exercises ever, with hundreds of South Korean and US warplanes, including F-35 stealth fighters, staging around-the-clock simulated missions.

In a statement on Thursday, the South Korean military said the US had agreed to extend the Vigilant Storm air exercises – which were due to end on Friday – owing to North Korea’s “recent provocations”.

Chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Kim Seung-kyum and the head of US Forces Korea Paul LaCamera held a virtual meeting and reaffirmed their commitment to “a stronger combined defense posture”, according to the statement.

The Vigilant Storm drills – which began on Monday – involved some 240 fighter jets and other aircraft conducting about 1,600 joint missions. The air drills followed just days after the South Korean military wrapped up their 12-day Hoguk 22 field exercises, and in which an undisclosed number of US troops had participated.

North Korean has condemned joint military drills between the US and South Korea as a rehearsal for invasion and had warned of “powerful follow-up measures” should air warfare exercises go ahead.

On Thursday, North Korea launched three ballistic missiles, including a suspected ICBM. The launch followed Wednesday’s firing of 20 missiles, the most in a single day by North Korea, including one that landed off South Korea’s coast for the first time.

Seoul responded by sending fighter jets to fire air-to-ground missiles into water north of its border.

Alongside its missile launches, Pyongyang has adopted an escalatory nuclear doctrine that authorizes preemptive nuclear attacks over a variety of loosely defined crisis situations.

South Korea and the US condemned Thursday’s launches, with Washington urging all nations to enforce sanctions on North Korea for violating United Nations Security Council resolutions that bar missiles and nuclear tests.

Ned Price, a spokesperson for the US State Department, said North Korea had demonstrated that it was a threat to “its neighbors, the region, international peace and security, and the global non-proliferation regime”.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman strongly condemned North Korea’s series of missile launches as “deplorable, immoral” during a phone call on Thursday, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

US President Joe Biden and his national security team were “assessing the situation,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement, which added that the United States would take “all necessary measures” to ensure security.

In brief comments to reporters a few minutes later, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “North Korea’s repeated missile launches are an outrage and absolutely cannot be forgiven”.

Kishida called for greater trilateral security cooperation between the US, Japan and South Korea.

Nuclear talks between the US and North Korea broke down in early 2019 over disagreements over denuclearization steps and have remained stalled since.

North Korea has so far ignored Biden’s calls for open-ended discussionsinsisting that Washington should first discard its “hostile” policy, a term it mainly uses to describe sanctions and the joint US-South Korean military exercises.

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