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US Drills in South Korea Trigger Nuclear War Warning From North

US Drills in South Korea Trigger Nuclear War Warning From NorthUS Drills in South Korea Trigger Nuclear War Warning From North

Two dozen US stealth jets were among hundreds of aircraft involved in war games intended as a show of strength to neighboring North Korea on Monday.

Dubbed Vigilant Ace, the annual military drills come amid heightened tensions in the region triggered by Kim Jong Un's missile and nuclear tests and ratcheting rhetoric from both sides, NBC News reported.

A total of 230 planes will fly from eight locations in South Korea, the air force said in a statement.

The navy and marine corps were also participating in what was described as "a realistic air combat exercise" designed to improve the technical cooperation between the American and South Korean militaries. About 12,000 US military personnel are involved.

North Korea described the exercises as a "grave provocation," claiming in its state-run media Monday that they could escalate the situation "to the brink of nuclear war."

Pyongyang said Vigilant Ace was being staged at a time "when insane President Trump is running wild" and it also condemned South Korea as "puppet war maniacs."

The US Air Force said the exercises were "not in response to any incident or provocation" and pointed out that the two countries engage in war games every year.

But this latest round, which runs until Friday, comes less than one week after North Korea's latest test of what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM.

Analysts said the rocket was the most powerful ever launched by the North —with some suggesting it had the range to reach anywhere in the US mainland.

***US Families Advised to Leave

Meanwhile, US Senator Lindsey Graham said Sunday that he believes it's time to start moving the families of American military personnel out of South Korea as North Korea pushes the US closer to a military conflict, AP reported.

Graham, a member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will also urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea.

"It's crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour," the South Carolina Republican said on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it's now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea."

About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from the North.

The Trump administration has vowed to deny North Korea the capability of striking the US homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile.

"Denial means pre-emptive war as a last resort. The pre-emption is becoming more likely as their technology matures," Graham told CBS. "I think we're really running out of time. The Chinese are trying, but ineffectively. If there's an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States."

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