- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2017

Over 200 American and South Korean warplanes took to the skies above the Korean peninsula on Monday in one of the largest military drills between the two allies in recent history and a massive show of force against the North Korean regime.

The annual exercise, dubbed Vigilant Ace, comes less than a week after Pyongyang carried out a successful test launch of its newest intercontinental ballistic missile. The test launch of the new Hwasong-15 weapon traveled longer and farther than any North Korean intercontinental missile to date.

The launch, carried out from a North Korean weapons facility in Sain Ni, forced Japanese officials to put the country’s northern provinces located along the missile’s trajectory on high alert.

The Nov. 6 missile test was further proof that the North Korean regime remains committed to the “effort to build a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace, regional peace and threatens the United States,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said shortly after the missile test.

The Pentagon says the large-scale wargames between Washington and Seoul over the weekend were part of annual military drills routinely conducted between the allied nations. That said, the exercise featured several pieces of U.S. military hardware — such as the stealth-capable F-22A Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as long-range B-1 bombers — that could be used in potential strikes against North Korean targets should war break out on the peninsula.

Among the various combat scenarios both forces are expected to play out during the weeklong drill, several will focus on “enemy infiltration and precision strike drills with South Korean jets,” Air Force officials told the Military Times.

Ahead of Monday’s kickoff of the U.S.-South Korea wargames, National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster warned that Pyongyang’s continued aggression on the peninsula was inching the region closer to war.

“I think it’s increasing every day, which means that we are in a race, really, we are in a race to be able to solve this problem,” Gen. McMaster said Sunday during a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

• Carlo Muñoz can be reached at cmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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