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US, South Korea Fly Warplanes in Drills02/23 06:38


   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea and the United States flew advanced 
stealth fighters in a joint missile-interception drill Friday over the Korean 
Peninsula, South Korea's air force said, an apparent response to a spate of 
weapons tests this year by rival North Korea.

   North Korea has conducted six rounds of missile tests so far this year, most 
of them reportedly involving cruise missiles that typically fly at a low 
altitude to overcome opponents' missile defenses. Analysts say that in the 
event of a conflict, North Korea aims to use cruise missiles to strike U.S. 
aircraft carriers as well as U.S. military bases in Japan.

   South Korea's air force said in a statement the drill on Friday involved 
fifth-generation stealth F-35A fighter jets from both countries and other 
fighter jets from South Korea. It said the U.S. F-35As were deployed in South 
Korea on Wednesday from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

   North Korea has ramped up its weapons tests since 2022 in what experts call 
an attempt to increase its leverage in future diplomacy. South Korea and the 
U.S. have responded by expanding their military exercises and a trilateral 
training involving Japan.

   On the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Rio De Janeiro on Thursday, the top 
diplomats from South Korea, the U.S. and Japan agreed to strengthen their joint 
response capability against North Korea's evolving nuclear threats and 
coordinate to block the North's financing of its nuclear program, according to 
South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

   This year, North Korea is expected to step up its testing activities and 
belligerent rhetoric as both the U.S and South Korea head into elections. North 
Korea is likely seeking international recognition as a nuclear state, a status 
that experts say the North thinks would help it receive relief from U.S.-led 
economic sanctions.

   North Korea's advancing nuclear arsenal has likely emboldened its stance, 
and there are concerns that the North may launch a limited military provocation 
against the South. Observers say a full-scale attack is unlikely as the North 
is outgunned by more superior U.S. and South Korean forces.

   U.S. and South Korean officials have repeatedly warned that any nuclear 
attack by North Korea against them would spell the end of the North's 
government led by Kim Jong Un.

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