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U.S., South Korea conduct live-fire air drills to counter North Korea threat

1 of 3 | A South Korean F-4E fires an AIM-7M air-to-air missile at an aerial target during a joint live-fire drill with U.S. aircraft Friday. Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Air Force
SEOUL, March 15 (UPI) — U.S. and South Korean aircraft this week held a joint live-fire exercise focused on countering North Korean cruise missile and artillery threats, the South’s Air Force said Friday. The five-day exercise began on Monday over the waters of the Yellow Sea and involved 40 aircraft including South Korean F-35A, F-15K, KF-16, F-16, FA-50 and F-4E jets. American A-10 and F-16 planes from the U.S. 7th Air Force, which is stationed in the country, also participated. Advertisement
“The training was conducted under a scenario of intercepting low-altitude cruise missiles launched by the enemy and precision striking the origin of the enemy’s firepower provocation,” the South Korean Air Force said in a press release.
The drills came in the wake of recent pointed threats from North Korea toward the South. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a long-range artillery firing exercise of units near the inter-Korean border that place the South Korean capital of Seoul within “striking range.”
Kim also supervised the test of a new surface-to-sea cruise missile last month, as the North strengthens its defense posture near a contentious maritime border in the Yellow Sea.
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On Thursday, state-run media reported that the North Korean leader drove a new battle tank during field exercises and called for preparations for “actual combat.”
The allies’ air drill coincided with their large-scale Freedom Shield joint exercise, which wrapped up on Thursday. The 11-day exercise focused on countering threats from the nuclear-armed North and included 48 joint field drills, almost twice as many as last year.
Pyongyang regularly condemns the joint exercises as rehearsals for an invasion and has used the drills in the past as a pretext for its own missile tests.
The United States and South Korea have increased their military cooperation over the past two years in response to the North’s provocations, with expanded drills and the deployment of U.S. assets such as aircraft carriers, a B-52 nuclear bomber and a nuclear ballistic missile submarine to the Korean Peninsula.

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