South Korea, US quietly hold joint air exercises amid calls for talks with the North

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South Korea and the United States launched joint air exercises on Monday, a military official said in Seoul, amid tensions over North Korea’s recent missile tests and calls for talks to resume. denuclearization.

The exercises, previously called Vigilant Ace, once mobilized tens of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of fighter jets, bombers and other advanced warplanes.

But the program has been scaled back since 2017 to facilitate talks to end Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs in return for US sanctions relief.

The allies have started the exercises, which will last five days, without announcing or naming them. South Korean news agency Yonhap said about 100 planes were dispatched to each side, including South Korean F-15K and KF-16 and American F-16, but that no equipment or soldier from the Americas would participate in the exercises.

A spokesperson for the South Korean Air Force declined to confirm the report.

The exercises took place after North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, the latest in its recent round of weapons testing.

The reclusive country sees the exercises in the south as a repeat of the war and cut inter-Korean hotlines when the allies held regular summer training in August, accusing Seoul of “treacherous behavior.”

US envoy to North Korea Sung Kim called the test “worrying and counterproductive” during his visit to Seoul last week and urged Pyongyang to accept offers for talks.

The North has so far pushed back US overtures, accusing Washington and Seoul of applying “double standards” by criticizing its weapons programs while talking about diplomacy and stoking tension with their own military activities.

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