With each passing day, tensions flare anew on the Korean Peninsula. By now, we all know that North Korea's been hard at work dong what they do best: Launching test missiles and fiery rhetoric.
On Dec. 4, the U.S. and South Korea kicked off their largest joint air exercise yet, dubbed Vigilant Ace 18, involving hundreds of aircraft and tends of thousands of troops on the ground. As you might expect, Pyongyang wasn't too happy about the drills, going as far as saying Dec. 2 that Trump's Administration is "begging for nuclear war."
F-15s from Kadena Air Base, Japan, taxi for takeoff at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 04, 2017. The fighter aircraft are participating in the pinensula-wide routine exercise, Vigilant Ace-18. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airmnan Jessica H. Smith)
While we're at a point now where North Korean threats are as routine as the sunrise, China has sent an aggressive message in passive support of the belligerent state that warrants more serious attention.
People's Liberation Army Air Force Spokesman Shen Jinke announced Dec. 4 (the same day as Vigilant Ace 18 kicked off) that China would be running drills through "routes and areas it has never flown before." These new routes are expected to cover airspace over the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. The exercises will involve all variety of aircraft, from reconnaissance planes to fighter jets, in joint operation with surface-to-air missiles. Simultaneously, China launched drills Dec. 2 that involve sending new Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft over the South China Sea, simulating an airdrop over an island in contested waters.
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter aircraft, assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron, taxis down a runway during Exercise VIGILANT ACE 18 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 3, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos)
Though Chinese military officials will likely claim that the new drills are not in direct response to U.S. and South Korean actions, military experts agree that this show of force warns against the continued provocation of North Korea.
The U.S. and China have a rocky history, but are far from going to blows. That being said, should conflict erupt on the Korea Peninsula, we'll quickly see how the chips fall.