S. Korea says allies' ongoing air drill is defensive in nature

In warning to Pyongyang, US deploys F 22 Raptors for joint drill with Seoul

The five-day Vigilant Ace drill will begin Monday, and 230 USA and South Korean military aircraft will demonstrate the strength of allied air power in the face of threats from North Korea.

F-35 fighters will also join the drill, which will also include the largest number of 5th generation fighters to take part, according to a South Korea-based U.S. Air Force spokesman.

The five-day Vigilant Ace drill - involving 230 aircraft, including F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters, and tens of thousands of troops - began Monday morning, Seoul's air force said, AFP reported.

Washington and Seoul on Monday kicked off the largest air combat exercise ever held on the Korean peninsula.

Seoul rejected the accusations, insisting its massive drills with USA is "an annual joint military exercise among the allies of a defense nature", Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman of South Korea's Ministry of Unification said on Monday, as cited by Yonhap.

Seoul's Unification Ministry rebuked the criticism, saying that the drills are defense exercises conducted annually.

The U.S. Pacific Air Forces announced in late November that 12,000 U.S. personnel would participate in the annual Vigilant Ace 18 along with airmen from the ROKAF.

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The exercise intends to test the ROK and the US air forces' ability to prevent North Korean aircraft from infiltrating South Korean airspace, according to South Korean media.

230 aircraft at eight US and South Korean military installations would be mobilized during the drills, the USA military said at the time.

South Korean media reports said B-1B Lancer bombers could join the exercise this week.

A spokesman at North Korea's foreign ministry on Saturday denounced the exercise as a large-scale nuclear war drill against North Korea.

The drills come a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile ever in defiance of worldwide sanctions and condemnation.

Aircraft taking part will be flown from eight US and South Korean military installations.

"The realistic air combat exercise is created to enhance interoperability between U.S. and Republic of Korea forces and increase the combat effectiveness of both nations", the U.S. Seventh Air Force said in a press release.

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