US and South Korea begin largest-ever joint air drill

The United States and South Korea went ahead with large-scale joint aerial drills on Monday, a move North Korea had said would push the Korean peninsula to “the brink of nuclear war”, ignoring calls from Russia and China to call them off.

The drills come a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States as part of a weapons programme that it has conducted in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said it was “regrettable” that all parties had not “grasped the window of opportunity” presented by two months of relative calm before the North’s most recent test. China and Russia had proposed that the United States and South Korea stop major military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programmes. Beijing formally calls the idea the “dual suspension” proposal.

The annual US-South Korean drill, called Vigilant Ace, will run until Friday, with six F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to be deployed among the more than 230 aircraft taking part.

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North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country called US President Donald Trump “insane” on Sunday and said the drills would “push the already acute situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war”.