US, South Korea to resumes major air drills after 4-year hiatus

240 military aircraft will participate in joint air exercises beginning Monday amid rising tensions on Korean Peninsula.

US, South Korea to resumes major air drills after 4-year hiatus

The US and South Korea will resume their suspended combined air exercises after a four-year-long break, amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The two countries' militaries will begin major combined air drills next week, involving 240 military aircraft, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a South Korean Air Force statement issued on Friday.

The five-day air drills will begin on Monday.

"During the exercise, the Air Forces of South Korea and the U.S. plan to hone wartime operational procedures and enhance sustained operational capabilities by conducting around-the-clock key air operations, such as a strike package flight, the provision of air defense and emergency air interdiction," the statement said.

The US will send 100 F-35B jets to participate in the combined drills, while South Korea will send 140 aircraft, including F-35A stealth jets as well as F-15K and KF-16 fighters.

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

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

On Friday, Pyongyang launched another "unspecified" ballistic missile just as South Korea was about to wrap off its annual 12-day Hoguk field training exercise, the media outlet reported, citing a Joint Chiefs of Staff 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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