Last week, North Korea broke a nearly three-month lull in testing activating. After detonating a hydrogen bomb in September, North Korea waited until the end of November to launch it's most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile yet. The ICBM is thought to put the entire United States within range.
"Kim Jong Un’s regime has proudly announced that it had now completed its nuclear goals," reported The Washington Post.
The United States and South Korea are responding by moving forward with their planned combat exercises. Both nations air forces gathered on to Monday begin a huge combat exercise. Those exercises will include simulated strikes on mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets.
North Korea denounced the exercises as dangerous “when insane President Trump is running wild." The Post. adds that some analysts have warned that they believe the exercises may sharply increase the "chances of miscalculation and accidental conflict."
The exercises include more than 230 warplanes. That includes six U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and another six F-35A stealth fighters, which have been deployed to the peninsula especially for the exercises.
"Two B-1B Lancer bombers are also expected to participate in the five-day-long drills, called 'Vigilant ACE,' along with about 12,000 American troops, including Navy and Marine Corps personnel," reported The Post.
The purpose of the combat exercise is to enhance coordination between the U.S. and South Korea. That will increase the allies’ combat effectiveness, said the U.S. Seventh Air in a statement.
The allied nations will practice for a range of wartime scenarios. According to the statement, those include enemy infiltration and precision strikes on mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets.
The drills will also take place in all weather—during both the day and the night—so the forces are ready for any situation, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said.
As noted, the drills, which have taken place in two previous years, were scheduled before the escalation of conflict with the U.S. and North Korea. There hasn't been a notable increase in the size of the drills, but fifth-generation stealth jets are involved for the first time this year.
The U.S. sanctioned North Korea further last week after the launch. The U.S. also warned the rogue nation that if sanctions don't change North Korea's course, then military action might be needed.
Over the weekend, H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser said the possibility of war with North Korea was increasing every day that the nuclear crisis wasn’t solved.
“The priorities that the president’s given us [are] to move as quickly as we can to resolve this crisis with North Korea,” McMaster told Fox News in an interview Sunday.
“If necessary, the president and the United States will have to take care of it, because he has said he’s not going to allow this murderous, rogue regime to threaten the United States.”
Republican Senator Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, echoed McMasters in an interview with CBS. She advised U.S. military families in South Korea to leave because a pre-emptive attack on North Korea is “becoming more likely.”
“We’re getting close to a military conflict because North Korea’s marching toward marrying up the technology of an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top that can not only get to America but deliver the weapon. We’re running out of time,” said Graham.
North Korea also responded to the drills. They said the drills show that the U.S. and South Korea are the “aggressors and provocateurs.” They used this to defend their decision to develop “deterrent” nuclear program.
“The projected war rehearsal is just a grave military provocation which will push the already acute situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war,” the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, which handles relations with South Korea, said in a statement carried by the official news agency.
The provocative exercises “will only invite more terrible retaliation and precipitate their self-destruction,” the committee warned the U.S. and South Korea.