South Korea and the US on Friday concluded the Vigilant ACE exercises, the largest joint air drill, meant to serve as a show of strength following North Korea’s latest missile launch. A defence official told Efe news that the allies had ended the five-day drills, in which the US deployed the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, the B-1B strategic bomber and several EA-18G airborne electronic warfare aircraft. This made the Vigilant ACE the largest air combat manoeuvers carried out in the Korean peninsula. The joint drills simulated precision attacks on mock nuclear facilities and self-propelled missile launch vehicles similar to those used by the Kim Jong-un regime to deploy its missiles. Although the Vigilant ACE are annual exercises and were planned ahead of North Korea’s latest missile launch on November 29, it is unusual for the Pentagon to carry out such a large-scale deployment such as this one.
On November 29, the North Korean army launched the Hwasong-15, its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile to date and which has put Pyongyang closer to striking the continental US with nuclear weapons. The North Korean regime, which usually considers such military exercises as an attempt to invade its territory, condemned the Vigilant Ace drills on Sunday through a statement published by the state news agency KCNA.