Ex-US defense secretary open to nuclear armament of S. Korea, Japan

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan conducts joint drills with the South Korean navy at sea

Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at Sydney's Lowy Institute, said continued North Korean nuclear and missile testing had been pushing South Korea and the United States closer together, undermining efforts by China to improve relations and increase its influence in the region ahead of the THAAD deployment.

Several F-35 stealth jets and F-16 fighters of the US, as well as F-15Ks and KF-16s of the South, joined the exercise at the Pilsung Firing Range in Gangwon Province, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

The five-day drill, called Vigilant Ace, is meant as a show of military force and capabilities in the Korean Peninsula.

After urging other nations to sever all ties with North Korea, America's ambassador to the United Nations, Hikki Haley, warned that "the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed" in the event of war.

"Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea".

North Korea, which last week launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, said ahead of the drills that it would consider the "highest-level hard-line countermeasure in history", according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

According to North Korean state media, North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country said the drill would "push the already acute situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war".

The US's F-22 is fully stealth and North Korea likely can't hope to down it.

He said that sanctions need to go further, and the act of North Koreans working in China and other countries also "needs to stop".

Experts are skeptical about how effectively sanctions can rein in North Korea's nuclear program, given that the comprehensive existing restrictions haven't left too many goods or entities to sanction.

Previously, North Korea threatened to shoot down B-1s flying even outside its airspace and to loft missiles at Guam, where the B-1s are based. That includes North Korea's top trading partner, China, as well as Germany, Brazil, India and France.

North Korea said that further escalation through joint drills "will only invite more awful retaliation and precipitate their self-destruction". The drills involve 230 aircraft and 12,000 American troops, in what North Korea has dubbed the largest-ever joint aerial exercise. The Pentagon said it has no plans to do so.

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