U.S. and Seoul hold drills as Korea tensions rise

STORY: The United States held joint air exercises bilaterally with South Korea and Japan involving strategic bombers on Sunday (February 19).

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the exercise demonstrated the allies' "overwhelming" defense capabilities and readiness posture.

The South's military said in a statement that the exercise, quote, "affirmed the United States' iron-clad commitment to the defense of the Korean Peninsula."

In a separate exercise, Japan flew F-15s over the Sea of Japan with U.S. bombers, Japan's Defense Ministry said in a statement, calling the security environment, quote, "increasingly severe."

The air drills come a day after North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile into the sea off Japan's west coast.

North Korea's state media KCNA said the country conducted a "sudden launching drill" on Saturday (February 18), which was shown on state television.

Saturday's missile launch was the North's first since January 1st.

It followed Pyongyang's threat on Friday of a, quote, "unprecedentedly persistent, strong" response as South Korea and the United States geared up for their annual military exercises.

Leader Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, accused the United States of trying to turn the U.N. Security Council into a, quote, "tool for its heinous hostile policy" toward Pyongyang.