Six of the most advanced American stealth fighter jets arrived in South Korea on Saturday for a new round of war games aimed at North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, according to local reports.
The Defense Department sent the F-22 Raptors to participate in a four-day joint military exercise in South Korea. The games are taking place just days after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears capable of reaching the eastern seaboard of the U.S.
“It will be the first time for six F-22 stealth fighter planes to fly over South Korea at one time,” according to Yonhap News Agency. “The U.S. also plans to send F-35A and F-35B stealth jets, F-16C fighter planes and others including an unspecified number of B-1B bombers. The South Korean Air Force will dispatch F-15K, KF-16 and F-5 fighter jets and other planes for the exercises with about 230 aircraft at eight U.S. and South Korean military installations being mobilized.”
North Korean state media touted last week’s missile as being able to carry a "super-large heavy warhead, which is capable of striking the whole mainland of the U.S.” The regime has pursued the nuclear weapons systems in order to help assure against an American and South Korean invasion of the north.
But North Korea also hopes to use the threat of a nuclear attack on the U.S. to force a withdrawal of American forces from South Korea, according to a former diplomat who defected from the regime. In dictator Kim Jong Un’s mind, the defector said, that U.S. withdrawal would set the stage for a northern invasion of South Korea.
“While Kim Jong Un has already long had the tools to destroy South Korea effectively, he also believes it is necessary to drive American forces out of the peninsula,” Thae Yong Ho told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in November. “And this can be done, he believes, by being able to credibly threaten the continental United States with nuclear weapons.”
Russian officials have accused the U.S. of carrying out the military exercises in order “to provoke” Kim Jong Un into war.
“One gets the impression that everything was deliberately done to make Kim Jong Un lose his nerve and take another reckless action,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday.
President Trump’s team maintains that North Korea’s belligerence makes the enhanced U.S. deployments to the region a necessity.
“We have never sought war with North Korea, and still today we do not seek it,” U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wednesday. “If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday. And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”