Massive S Korea-US drill takes off, North warns of nuclear war

04 December 2017

North Korea said on Sunday that the joint military drill by the US and South Korea that started today could trigger a nuclear war.

In comment's that appeared in state-run newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's foreign ministry said the five-day military drill was "all out provocation against" the country, and it may lead to nuclear war "at any moment".

It accused the Donald Trump administration of "begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula".

Pyongyang will ''seriously consider'' countermeasures against the drill, and the US and South Korea will ''pay dearly for their provocations,'' the Korean Central News Agency said on Sunday before the start of the exercises.

The drill took off today just days after North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan in the middle of night.

North Korea's missile tests are an "imminent threat" to Japan, the Japanese parliament declared today, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said talking to the reclusive state was meaningless.

The upper house unanimously adopted a resolution protesting against the North's firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile that dropped into the sea inside Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Hundreds of aircraft including two dozen stealth jets began training today as the United States and South Korea launched their biggest-ever combined air force exercise.

The five-day drill, which is called Vigilant Ace, is meant to improve the allies wartime capabilities, South Korea's defence ministry said.

The US Seventh Air Force sent major strategic military assets that include six F-22 and 18 F-35 stealth fighter jets for the annual training exercise in the Korean Peninsula, which this year is bigger than ever. About 12,000 US military personnel are participating. Some local media reported that B-1B bombers will also join aerial drills.

Tensions are at a particularly dangerous point as North Korea edges toward its goal of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped long-range missiles, and President Donald Trump uses aggressive rhetoric toward the North, threatening, for instance, ''fire and fury'' toward the country.

While many South Koreans typically ignore North Korea's rhetoric, some senior American officials have expressed worry following the ICBM test, North Korea's third.

On Sunday, Lindsey Graham, a US senator from the state of South Carolina, said he believes that it's time for US military families in South Korea to leave the country because conflict with North Korea is getting close. The US government has not announced a formal decision to evacuate US citizens from South Korea, and there were no such signs in the diplomatic community in Seoul.

In addition to American diplomats and other embassy workers, about 28,500 US troops operate in South Korea, and many come to their posts with their families, who often live on huge, well-guarded military bases.

Also on Sunday, the White House national security adviser said that Trump will take care of North Korean threats by ''doing more ourselves.''

''The priorities that the president has given us are to move as quickly as we can to resolve this crisis with North Korea,'' General H R McMaster told Fox News in an interview. ''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.''

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