In a statement carried by state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's Foreign Ministry said "the Trump team is begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula," referring to the annual Vigilant Ace exercise which is set to kick off on Monday and run until December 8. It went on to state that "the international community terms the moves of the US very alarming and is keeping a close watch on them with great concern and anxiety as the US is engrossed in making successive military provocations mobilizing greater amount of its nuclear strategic assets than ever, thereby driving the situation of the Korean peninsula to the brink of crisis."
The ministry referred to the exercise as being "unprecedented in its size and nature of simulating actual combat situation..." and claimed that Washington's attempt to "demonize" North Korea can be seen as a prelude to nuclear war. It said that Pyongyang is taking "legitimate and righteous" measures to strengthen its defensive nuclear deterrence capabilities.
The ministry's remarks came after Yonhap reported Saturday that six F-22 fighter jets had arrived in South Korea ahead of the annual exercise. The joint drills will include the allies staging simulated attacks on mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets, as well as on transporter erector launchers which move Pyongyang’s missiles, the news outlet reported, citing the South Korean air force.
This year's exercise will mark the first time that six F-22 stealth fighter jets have flown over South Korea at one time. The planes are capable of accurately hitting key targets without being detected by an enemy's radar. The US also plans to send F-35A and F-35B stealth jets to take part in the annual exercise, along with F-16C fighter planes and B-1 bombers, Yonhap reported.
South Korea's air force will reportedly deploy F-15K, KF-16, and F-5 fighter jets to take part in the exercise, along with other planes. In total, around 230 aircraft at eight US and South Korean military installations will be mobilized.
Pyongyang has long spoken out against joint drills between the US and South Korea. The North's ambassador to the UN ruled out negotiations with Washington earlier this month, citing America's "hostile policy" against his country and continuing drills between the US and Seoul.
Russia and China have long called for the US and North Korea to accept their proposed "double freeze" plan which would see Pyongyang suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korea drills. However, that proposal was completely rejected by the US over the summer.
Meanwhile, the US appears to agree with Pyongyang on one thing – the fact that war between the two powers is becoming an increasing possibility. "I think it's increasing every day, which means that we are in a race, really, we are in a race to be able to solve this problem," White House national security adviser HR McMaster said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California on Saturday, as cited by CNN.