US, South Korea begin joint air drills amid rising tensions on Korean Peninsula

Some 240 aircraft taking part in 5-day exercises.

US, South Korea begin joint air drills amid rising tensions on Korean Peninsula

The US and South Korean forces on Monday kicked off their large-scale five-day joint air drills, amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The two countries resumed the combined air exercises after a four-year-long break.

Some 240 aircraft are taking part in the exercises. South Korea deployed some 140 planes, including F-35A stealth fighters, and F-15K and KF-16 jets, while the US also dispatched about 100 assets, including F-35B stealth fighters based in Okinawa, Japan, and EA-18 electronic warfare aircraft, as well as KC-135 tankers and the U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The combined air drills were first held in 2015 and later suspended by the administration of then-President Moon Jae-in in 2018 as part of a drive for inter-Korean reconciliation.

This time the Australian air force is also taking part in the exercises.

Seoul fears that North Korea could also show its might by carrying out missile tests during their combined exercises.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen further following recent military drills by South Korea, and the US as well as North Korean missile tests.

On Friday, Pyongyang launched another "unspecified" ballistic missile just as South Korea was about to wrap up its annual 12-day Hoguk field training exercise, local media reported, citing a military statement.

North Korea recently fired a short-range ballistic missile into the East Sea, just two days after launching two long-range strategic cruise missiles involving units operating “tactical nukes.”

On Oct. 4, the US and South Korean forces held live-fire joint drills after North Korea fired a missile over Japan for the first time in five years.

Tensions in the region began in 2020 when North Korea attacked and blew up the inter-Korean liaison office along the border. Seoul has threatened a strong response if Pyongyang "further worsens the situation."

Hüseyin Demir

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