Korea Issues More Threats as Drills Continue on Korean Peninsula

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo holds a meeting with top military commanders at the defense ministry building in Seoul on Dec. 8 2017 in this

The exercises have been condemned as a provocation by the isolated North.

The focus of the Vigilant Ace exercise is bilateral training on mutual support procedures and further improving the understanding and trust between the two nations' military forces in the event of war-which under present circumstances is not an abstract concept.

North Korea has vehemently criticized the drills since the weekend, saying the exercise "precipitates" the United States' and South Korea's "self-destruction".

The U.S. Air Force has said the size of this year's drill is "comparable" to previous years.

On Monday, the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew exercises in "routes and areas it has never flown before" over both the Yellow Sea that divides China and the Korean Peninsula as well as the East China Sea between China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. "Their objective, Shen said, is to "'improve combat-readiness and safeguard the country's strategic interests".

The South Korean defense ministry building is shown in this file
The South Korean defense ministry building is shown in this file

The threats come a week after North Korea's latest launch of an ICBM, which is believed to be capable of striking anywhere in the USA mainland.

South Korean government officials, including President Moon Jae-in, have said the North's latest ICBM is their most capable yet, although it has several critical points to prove, such as re-entry technology and terminal stage guidance.

Li Jie, a Beijing-based military expert, described the exercises as an implicit message from the Chinese leadership to the US. During the Cold War, Soviet doctrine-which North Korean doctrine is based on-called for snap exercises to provide cover for mobilization efforts to go to war. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is said to be most afraid of stealth fighters as they can easily get past the regime's air defenses undetected. However, that plan was swiftly rejected over the summer by the United States, which claims it has the right to conduct military exercises with its ally South Korea.

As recently as August the Chinese leadership reaffirmed its commitment to the half-century-old defensive alliance - making clear that it was only a defensive alliance and that they would not necessarily back Kim should he go on the attack first.

"If "freeze for freeze" is going to work, then North Korea has to accept the verification process", Woo said.

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