Washington and Seoul’s advanced warplanes kicked off five days of round-the-clock military exercises on Monday. Pyongyang slammed the war games and suggested it would deliver a “powerful” response.
This year’s edition of the annual ‘Vigilant Storm’ exercise is the largest ever, with the Pentagon saying it was “designed to practice wartime missions, roles and tasks in effort to enhance the combat readiness and survivability of US and [South Korean] forces.” The aerial drills will include nearly 100 American warplanes that will join 140 South Korean aircraft and an Australian refueling tanker.
On Monday, North Korea demanded the US and South Korea scrap the war games, denouncing the joint drills as a “rehearsal for invasion and proof of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.”
“The situation in the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity has entered the serious confrontation phase of power for power again due to the ceaseless and reckless military moves of the US and South Korea,” Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said.
Military activity on the Korean Peninsula has slowly increased since former President Donald Trump demanded North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons during a summit in Hanoi in 2019. The pace has swiftly accelerated since Joe Biden took over the White House and hardened Washington’s posture toward Pyongyang.
The Vigilant Storm war games started just as South Korea concluded its annual 12-day Hoguk 22 field exercises on Friday. In August, Washington and Seoul conducted joint, live-fire drills for the first time in several years. So far in 2022, North Korea has conducted a record 26 missile tests, but claims the weapons trials are a response to aggressive actions by Washington and Seoul.
Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Kelley Jeter told Stars and Stripes the training was planned months in advance and is “part of what a professional military does.”
Commenting on Vigilant Storm, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry warned that “if the US continuously persists in the grave military provocations, the DPRK will take into account more powerful follow-up measures,” adding that Pyongyang is “ready to take all necessary measures for defending its sovereignty, people’s security and territorial integrity from outside military threats.”