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Korea tensions rise ahead of US-South Koreajoint military drill

Korea tensions rise ahead of US-South Koreajoint military drill

China is North Korea's only significant ally, but it has grown increasingly frustrated over the North's nuclear and missile tests that have brought a threat of war and chaos to China's northeastern border.

The five-day Vigilant Ace drill - involving some 230 aircraft including F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters - begins on Monday, five days after the North test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile believed capable of hitting the U.S. mainland in a fresh challenge to President Donald Trump.

The commentary was published a day after Pyongyang's foreign ministry accused the Trump administration of "begging for nuclear war" by staging what it called the reckless air drills.

The exercises come after the North fired an intercontinental ballistic missile last Wednesday.

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday urged the Pentagon to start moving U.S. military dependents, such as spouses and children, out of South Korea, saying conflict with North Korea is getting close. Every missile test, every underground test of a nuclear weapon, means the marriage is more likely.

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Still, the president's national security adviser said North Korea is improving every time it conducts a test, even when it fails.

Meanwhile, South Korean media showed six US Air Force F-22 Raptors, Washington's top-of-the-line stealth fighters, arriving in South Korea on Saturday to participate in the Vigilant Ace 18 air combat exercise, an annual US-South Korea drill the US Air Force says is created to boost the "combat effectiveness" of the alliance. Some U.S. Marine F-35Bs, stationed in Japan were also expected to take part in Vigilant Ace, it said.

"The US aircraft that have landed on South Korea include six F-22s, six F-35s, six EA-18Gs", the official said.

The Rodong Sinmun commentary said the aerial wargames show "the enemies' moves to start a nuclear war have reached a unsafe stage".

"It is an open, all-out provocation against the DPRK, which may lead to a nuclear war any moment", it said in an editorial on Sunday, using the North's official name. That preemption is becoming more likely as their technology matures.

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North Korean officials made similar comments last month.

USA media, quoting senior US officials, said Saturday that the missile likely broke up upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

The Hwasong-15 is believed to have reached the highest altitude ever recorded by a North Korean missile.

Washington is battling to maintain worldwide solidarity in the face of the North nuclear threat after Russian Federation warned that sanctions have failed and China sidestepped talk of an oil embargo.

The ICBM Hwasong-15 type weaponry system used in Wednesday's test is an intercontinental ballistic rocket tipped with super-large heavy warhead capable of striking the whole mainland of the U.S., the North said.

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"We're asking China not to do us or anybody else a favor", he said.