US F-22 fighter jets set to join South Korea military exercise
The United States sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea on Sunday to join military exercises in a move aimed at further deterring threats from North Korea against its neighbor.
And on Monday South Korean President Park Geun-hye appeared to give her country's military permission to strike back at any attack from the North without further word from Seoul, saying she took the North's escalating threats "very seriously," South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
"As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I will trust the military's judgment on abrupt and surprise provocations by North Korea," she said, according to Yonhap.
The deployment and Park's remarks came as tensions approached an all-time high between Pyongyang and Washington.
Kim Jong Un has ratcheted up the rhetoric against both South Korea and the United States in recent months, and in February violated U.N. sanctions by ordering a nuclear weapons test.
On Saturday, North Korea said it had entered a "state of war" against South Korea, according to a statement reported by the North's official news agency, KCNA.
The U.S. military command in South Korea announced the deployment of the fighter jets in a statement.
"[North Korea] will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia," it said.
The exercise, called "Foal Eagle," is meant to reinforce "the U.S. commitment of its most advanced capabilities to the security of the Republic of Korea," according to the statement.
The stealth aircraft were deployed to the Osan Air Base in South Korea from Japan to engage in bilateral military drills.
KCNA reported Monday that the aircraft had arrived but cited a South Korean television broadcast as its source.
Kim has also recently threatened to "settle accounts" with the U.S. and posed near a chart that appeared to detail bombings of American cities.
The F-22 jets' arrival follows other recent displays of air power by the U.S. in South Korea. Last week B-52 bombers and B-2 stealth bombers were sent to the country for the annual exercise.
In another sign of how tense things have become, Pope Francis on Easter Sunday called for “renewed spirit of reconciliation” on the Korean Peninsula.
In North Korea, meanwhile, KCNA reported on an Easter service at which it said "the participants renewed the firm resolution to put the warmongers [the US and South Korea] into the red hot iron-pot of hell as early as possible."