U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets take part in a joint aerial drill exercise called "Vigilant Ace" between U.S. and South Korea, at the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, December 6, 2017.
A total of 12,000 USA service members are taking part in the annual Vigilant Ace drills alongside South Korean troops.
"Through the exercise, the South Korean and USA air forces have demonstrated the alliance's strong will and capability for strong retaliation against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats", the South Korean military said in the statement, adding that the exercise also improved the two air forces' readiness to deploy "a rapid response force". Responding to the Hankyoreh's request that day for the Pentagon's position on Graham's remarks, East Asia-Pacific spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said it had no plans at present to pursue the voluntary or mandatory evacuation of dependents of troops stationed in South Korea.
Exercise Vigilant Ace 18 runs from Monday to Friday, and includes 12,000 U.S. personnel along with airmen with the Republic of Korea Air Force.
The bombers were dispatched from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and flew over the Korean peninsula, reportedly staging simulated bombing drills while flying in formation with around 20 aircraft participating in the annual "Vigilant Ace" air combat drill.
Seoul and Washington have been conducting a massive air combat drill known as "Vigilant Ace".
The Chinese air force launched an exercise of their own concurrent to the enormous air drills being run by the US and South Korea, causing experts to speculate what, exactly, Beijing is trying to communicate to the West.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry said threats of a preemptive war against Pyongyang have made future war unavoidable on the Korean peninsula.
Russian Federation and China remain behind a so-called "double-freeze" proposal, which would see the U.S. suspend joint drills with South Korea in exchange for Pyongyang halting its missile and nuclear tests.
During the Korean War that began in 1950 and is still technically ongoing, China came to the aid of the communist Northern Korean factions against the United States and their Southern allies, repaying the fledgling North's contribution to their own civil war, which the Chinese Communist Party had only won the previous year with Korean communist help.
North Korea regularly uses its state media to threaten the United States and its allies. The start was given only a week after the DPRK conducted a new intercontinental ballistic missile test. The exercise has been slammed by North Korea, which said the drills prove that US President Donald Trump is "begging" for nuclear war.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday expressed concerns over the continued deployment of US strategic assets.