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Giant U.S.-South Korea Air Force Exercise in Atmosphere of Increasing Tensions

Dec. 4, 2017 (EIRNS)—The giant U.S.-South Korean air force exercise, dubbed Vigilant ACE 18 (ACE standing for Air Combat Exercise), kicked off today in an atmosphere of tensions heightened by last week’s North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test flight. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) added to the tensions during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, yesterday, when he claimed that every North Korean nuclear test brings the United States closer to waging a pre-emptive war against North Korea and called for the evacuation of U.S. military dependents from South Korea. At the same time, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman told the Voice of America that there can be no talks with North Korea unless it commits to denuclearization first.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed regret for the higher tensions in remarks after meeting with his Mongolian counterpart in Beijing.

"China has always been open-minded to new propositions to resolve the issue; however, the stipulations and spirit of UN Security Council resolutions should be a common principle for all parties to follow,"

Wang said, reports Xinhua. He said China firmly opposes actions to increase the tension on the Korean Peninsula and has always been working to promote peace and dialogue in accordance with all previous UN resolutions.

Vigilant ACE, which runs through Dec. 8, features some 230 aircraft—80 on the South Korean side and 150 on the U.S. side —including 6 F-22 and 18 F-35 stealth fighters, along with 12,000 U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine personnel. The Unification Ministry is Seoul insisting that the exercise is wholly defensive in nature, thus dismissing the rhetoric about it from Pyongyang.

"The air force drill is an annual joint military exercise among the allies, of a defensive nature. The government will not comment on every reaction by North Korea,"

Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman at the Ministry of Unification, told a press briefing, reports Yonhap.