U.S. jets arrive for annual combined air exercise

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U.S. jets arrive for annual combined air exercise

U.S. Air Force fighter jets arrived in South Korea over the past weekend for the annual joint air combat exercise with Seoul, the Vigilant Ace 18, which runs for four days from today.

The show of force comes on the heels of a new intercontinental ballistic missile North Korea test-fired into the East Sea last Wednesday. Local military officials later admitted that the missile, the Hwasong-15, was capable of targeting the entire U.S. mainland if it were fired at an angle to optimize its range.

Six F-22 Raptors, stealth tactical fighter jets, landed at Gwangju Air Base last Saturday. Neither the South Korean Air Force nor the U.S. Air Force has officially announced what other aircraft will arrive, but several local military sources said the F-35A Lightening II as well as the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft arrived either at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, or Kunsan Air Base in North Jeolla by Sunday, and began training.

The lineup for Vigilant Ace 18 is also known to include the F-16C Fighting Falcon, E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft and B-1B Lancer bomber.

Twelve F-35B Lightening IIs will fly in from a U.S. air base in Japan for the exercise, but won’t make a landing on South Korean soil, according to a local military official.

Some 12,000 personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy are expected to take part, while nearly 90 military airplanes from the South Korean Air Force and 150 from the U.S. side will be mobilized.

South Korean Air Force planes participating include the F-15K, KF-16 and F-5 fighter jets, FA-50 light fighter, KA-1 light attack aircraft and E-737 early warning and control aircraft. The allies will practice targeting key North Korean nuclear and missile facilities.

Washington once again nudged Beijing to do more to rein in Pyongyang, with the White House national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, telling a crowd at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California Saturday that the potential for war with North Korea was “increasing every day.”

He said, “We are in a race, really, we are in a race to be able to solve this problem,” adding, “China has tremendous coercive economic power over North Korea. I mean, you can’t shoot a missile without fuel.”

The security adviser said he and President Donald Trump thought that a 100 percent oil embargo on the North was necessary at this point.

The Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid, put it bluntly in an op-ed last Friday it had no intentions for that move.

“Whatever North Korea did, it is wrong to impose a full trade embargo or to sever ties with the country,” the article read. “China has no obligation to cooperate with the U.S. on this impractical idea.” At one point, the outlet blamed Washington and Seoul for having “failed to fulfill their obligations in alleviating tensions and pushing for talks,” instead pinning their hopes on China, which has already “done what it can” for both North Korea and the United States.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, PARK SANG-WOOK [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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