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Britain sends fighter jets to trilateral air exercise in S. Korea

All Headlines 16:34 November 08, 2016

SEOUL, Nov. 8 (Yonhap) -- Britain on Tuesday sent its fighter jets to South Korea for the first time since the Korean War to join the first-ever trilateral combined air exercise with the U.S. amid growing threats from North Korea.

Four Eurofighter Typhoons arrived at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, Tuesday morning along with a Voyager tanker aircraft, a C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft and around 200 British airmen as part of the weeklong "Invincible Shield" drill that ends Thursday, the Air Force said in a joint statement.

The aerial drill marks South Korea's first domestic air combat maneuver with a foreign country other than its main ally, the United States. It is aimed at enhancing the interoperability among the three countries' air forces, it said.

"This exercise is helping to deepen further the relationship between the Republic of Korea Air Force and the Royal Air Force (RAF), and I have taken enormous pride from witnessing our Air Forces join together to enhance even further cooperation between our countries," RAF's Chief of the Air Staff Stephen Hillier said in the statement.

This photo, taken on Nov. 8, 2016, shows fighter jets from South Korea, the U.S. and Britain flying together as part of the "Invincible Shield" combined air exercise that ends Thursday. From the bottom up, the jets are the Eurofighter Typhoon, F-15K, F-16 and KF-16. (Yonhap)

U.S. 7th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeson said the combined drill with South Korean and British air forces will help protect peace and security on the Korean Peninsula from the North's provocations.

"This exercise offers the opportunity to develop interoperability between different types of aircraft and weapons systems, and try out various tactics and techniques, thereby greatly contributing to improving the operational capabilities of each air force," a statement by the U.S. officer said.

This year alone, Pyongyang conducted two underground nuclear tests and fired off some two dozen ballistic missiles. Such developments have escalated global fears that the North is approaching its stated goal of developing a nuclear-tipped long-range ballistic missile that can hit parts of the U.S. mainland.

Still, Britain didn't want to give the impression that its forces were involved in any type of exercise to counter threats from North Korea.

British Ambassador Charles Hay said last month the drill is aimed at more than just the North Korean threat.

"This exercise is not about North Korea. There are a lot of issues going on in the Asia-Pacific region, including the North Korean issue, so this is part of the bigger picture but is certainly not the only reason. The drill is part of our big-picture strategy," he said.

This is the first time London sent jets to Seoul since the Korean War (1950-53). It shows not only the European country's dedication to maintaining the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and the region but also its capability to deploy military assets effectively to the other side of the world, the ambassador said.

The British jets flew to South Korea after conducting exercises in Malaysia and Japan. The Typhoons took part in drills with F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets from South Korea and F-16 fighters from the U.S.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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