Hundreds of aircraft including two dozen stealth jets began training Monday as the United States and South Korea launched their biggest-ever combined air force exercise. The war games come a week after North Korea test-fired its most powerful missile ever, an ICBM that may be able to target the eastern seaboard of the United States. The five-day drill, which is called Vigilant Ace, is meant to improve the allies' wartime capabilities, South Korea's defense ministry said. The US Seventh Air Force sent major strategic military assets including six F-22 and 18 F-35 stealth fighter jets for the annual training exercise in the Korean Peninsula, the AP reports. About 12,000 US military personnel are participating.
North Korea's state media said the drill pushes the Korean Peninsula "to the brink of nuclear war." 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. Such language is typical in North Korean propaganda, but some senior American officials have expressed worry following the ICBM test, North Korea's third. On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said he believes that it's time for US military families in South Korea to leave the country because conflict with the North is approaching. (White House national security adviser HR McMaster says the possibility of war is "increasing every day.")