SOUTH KOREA and the United States launched their largest joint air force drills to date on Monday, a day after President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser asserted that they will “take care” of the North Korean regime.
According to South Korea’s national news agency Yonhap, the two nations kicked off a “massive” aerial drill, involving more than 230 warplanes and 12,000 military personnel, just days after North Korea declared its nuclear statehood.
“It’s aimed at enhancing the all-weather, day and night combined air power operation capabilities of South Korea and the US,” South Korea’s defense ministry said as quoted by Yonhap. The exercises will reportedly involve “simulated precision strikes” on mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets.
The US Seventh Air Force added that “the realistic air combat exercise is designed to enhance interoperability between US and Republic of Korea forces, and increase the combat effectiveness of both nations.”
Last week, North Korea declared it had conducted a successful test of a long-range missile capable of reaching the continental US. It landed off the coast of Japan, triggering a South Korean test-launch in response.
Discussing North Korea during an interview with Fox News Sunday, the White House’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said “I will only tell you that we will take care of it.”
Asked how the US intended to do so given China and Russia’s ties to Pyongyang, he added that “the president’s going to take care of it by, if we have to, doing more ourselves. But what we want to do is convince others it is in their interest to do more.”
Trump’s administration has pressured Beijing – which has good diplomatic and economic relations with Pyongyang – to apply greater pressure against Kim Jong Un’s defiant regime.
“There’s a real grave danger to China, to Russia, to all nations, by – you know, from a North Korea that’s armed with nuclear weapons,” added McMaster on Sunday.
“And so, what the president’s saying is, we all need to take care of it. 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 with the most destructive weapons on the planet.”
Washington recently reclassified North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, allowing the State Department to impose tougher sanctions on Pyongyang.