Unprecedented joint air force drills between the US and South Korea, featuring hundreds of warplanes, have kicked off despite dire warnings from Pyongyang and Moscow's calls to avoid new provocations after the recent launch of North Korea's new ICBM.
Dozens of state-of-the-art American fighter jets, including F-22 raptors and F-35s, are blazing across the skies surrounding the Korean peninsula.
Other U.S. assets include two B-1B bombers and six Growler electronic warfare jets as well as dozens of F-15s and F-16s.
North Korea has increased the threat to its neighbors and the US this year through the development of new, more deadly ballistic missiles, including two intercontinental ballistic missiles, both of which can theoretically range the continental U.S. Their goal in this training exercise is to take out key North Korean nuclear facilities.
Seoul rejected the accusations, insisting its massive drills with U.S. 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.
230 aircraft at eight US and South Korean military installations would be mobilized during the drills, the USA military said at the time. The U.S Marine Corps and Navy troops will also participate in the drill.
The ROK and the USA army will also reportedly concentrate on practicing "surgical strikes" against targets related to North Korea's nuclear and missile program. "We hold it to enhance our joint operations capabilities.".
Pyongyang blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for raising tensions and warned over the weekend the Vigilant Ace exercise was pushing tensions on the Korean peninsula towards "a flare-up", according to North Korean state media. Pyongyang condemned the scheduled annual drill.
The months-long nuclear standoff between Kim and Trump - as well as their trading of personal insults - has fuelled concerns of another conflict, more than six decades after 1950-53 Korean War that left much of the peninsula in ruins.
The five-day Vigilant Ace drill will begin Monday, and 230 US and South Korean military aircraft will demonstrate the strength of allied air power in the face of threats from North Korea.